Agriculture: One of the Most Useful College Majors

Photo Courtesy of the National FFA Organization

Ever since Yahoo! published an article Jan. 19 by Terence Loose listing “College Majors that are Useless,” agriculturists across the nation have been having a field day.  The ground is snow covered throughout the Corn Belt, but the agricultural community is making hay any way!

I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Loose’s article does more than boost hits on the Yahoo! site… I’m betting it’s going to be one of the best PR opportunities our industry has seen.  It gives agriculturists a great chance to tell our side of the story to a captive, engaged audience.  He’s making our story relevant, timely and newsworthy!

Take a look at how people across the country are weighing in:

  • “Without agriculture, everyone would be naked and hungry” is one of the tweets I read last week after the Yahoo story ran.  Since I couldn’t remember who deserves attribution for this quote, I did a quite Google search for “hungry naked agriculture.”  WOW.  My search revealed about 14,200,000 results with this one listed at the top:  Are You Ready to Be Hungry and Naked? | Hoosier Ag Today.  You can even buy “Naked & Hungry” T-shirts from the National FFA Organization.
  • In the Huffington Post, Allen S. Levine, Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and Director of the Minnesota Obesity Center, University of Minnesota, writes:  “While I’m hesitant to give the list (by Terence Loose) more credibility than it deserves – it’s based almost entirely on U.S. Labor Department projections and one author’s opinions – this blog post is so far off base it has to be refuted.”  Click here to read his rebuttal.

Interestingly enough, a publication entitled Recruiting Trends 2010-2011 published by Dr. Phil Gardner at Michigan State University concludes:  “No sector appears stronger than agriculture/food processing with an increase in hires of approximately 14 percent.”

Mike Gaul, Director of Career Services for Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences,  says, “Every thing that’s happening at our college completely contradicts the Yahoo! article.  Our college has the highest placement rate on campus at 98.2%.  ISU CALS hosts the country’s largest agricultural career day.  The fall career day, on Oct. 18, 2011, was the largest on record with 175 companies exhibiting.  In addition, more nearly 1,200 interviews were conducted on-campus last fall.  Now ISU CALS is getting ready to host its 5th annual spring ag career for which record participation is expected.

“When you invest in a college degree, you want to be marketable upon graduation.  A degree in agriculture is offering a great ROI right now,” adds Gaul.  “Agriculture is diverse and agriculture grads are in high demand.”

Agriculture is a far different industry than it was 50, 30, or even 10 years ago, says Levine of the University of Minnesota.  He’s quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, “Who knows? The next George Washington Carver, Temple Grandin or Louis Pasteur might be thinking about a future in the agricultural sciences right now; the health of our people and our environment could depend on what he or she chooses.

ISU’s Gaul agrees there are many more majors under the ag umbrella today including microbiology, horticulture, culinary science, and global resource systems.

Agriculture in 2012 is certainly broader than it was in my grandparents’ and my parents’ day.  It’s even broader than it was in 1993 when I enrolled at Iowa State University with a double-major in Agricultural Journalism and Public Service Administration in Agriculture.  My degree has provided me with wonderful experiences during the past 19 years including lobbying on behalf of Iowa agribusinesses, doing public relations for agricultural leaders and now owning a business where I have the pleasure of working daily with those who help feed, clothe and fuel the world.  Truly, an ag degree is one of most useful degrees!