Agriculture, an attractive career, you've got to be kidding?

For many years farm and rural parents have been discouraging their kids from pursuing careers in both production agriculture and allied agriculture fields. Why would a parent discourage their children from pursuing a field of study that could lead to live long employment? In fact, this has been the case for many years.

Agriculture production jobs commonly require long hours, working in conditions ranging from 20 degrees below zero to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the environment is something less than sanitary. Injuries and death from farming accidents have also been common. Working with livestock and moving equipment can be quite dangerous. These positions have also tended to be on the lower end of the pay scale.

Careers in agribusiness became more numerous starting in the 1970's. These positions include feed and agronomy sales and service jobs, mechanics, mill workers, truck drivers, pesticide application operators, retail store sales people, veterinarians and governmental positions administering and providing education opportunities for those working in agriculture. Over the last 45 years, these jobs have evolved into very rewarding occupations but these positions have also required long hours with compensation packages lower than comparable jobs in other industries.

So it's no wonder why parents have discouraged their children from seeking an agricultural production or support positions. In recent years, there has been a substantial improvement in the working conditions and the work hours as compared to the past. Production positions are much less physically demanding than they were 20 years ago and the financial compensation has improved for both the production agriculture and agribusiness employees. Although both the production agriculture jobs and the agribusiness positions are more financially competitive as compared to other industrial positions; they are still lagging behind the non-agriculture sector.

In the last 20 years, agriculture has embraced and incorporated a huge amount of new technology on to our farms and in the way agribusiness delivers services to their farming clients thus improving agriculture's production efficiency.

But revolutionary changes are now on the horizon for agriculture. The best term describing what looms in agriculture's future is the word, "precision". When precision is used in the agronomic setting the context refers to global positioning and other computer based technologies. Global positioning is making it possible for producers to apply agricultural production inputs within less than an inch of the desired location. Computer based software can count plant populations, measure soil organic matter and apply plant nutrients much more precisely in terms of what the crop needs and in a much more environmental friendly method.

Precision dairying includes milking cows with robots, measuring the individual cow's temperature, white blood cells in their milk, accessing each cows rumen health on a daily basis and when best to artificially breed each cow. Equipment is also now available to automatically feed milk to groups of baby calves while collecting health information on each individual calf thus giving the herdsperson a heads up on the calves vital signs before the calf even knows it is about to feel ill.

The perception has been that agriculture has not attracted the best minds to work in production and agriculture support positions. The writer of this article would of course tend to disagree with this perception. He believes because of the conditions and documented lower pay scale; other industries have scoffed at agriculture despite our work ethic and ingenuity that provides their daily sustenance.

Agriculture is the world's oldest occupation and obviously our most vital of all industries. Agriculture has a lot of people to feed and the development and implementation of these new technologies and technologies not yet thought of will come from the top minds in our country. These new techniques of production will improve the working conditions; attract more of our best youth and in order to compete with other industries, agriculture positions will need to be more competitive with other industries.

The future of agriculture has never been more exciting. Parents and high school counselors need to change their perceptions regarding agriculture and encourage rather than discourage their youth from seeking a career in our nation's oldest and most rewarding occupation.

Written by: Greg Booher
Lakeshore Technical College
Farm Business Instructor
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