Recently, my three year old daughter had the opportunity to ride with my dad in a combine and loved it! While this is usually an experience that rural kids have the opportunity to participate, several thoughts came to mind. First, I was somewhat saddened by the fact that my husband and I don’t have a farm and won’t be able to immerse her with all the joys and challenges that living on a farm provides: hauling irrigation pipe, digging thistles, feeding livestock, and also seeing calves born, driving tractors, playing on hay bales, etc.
Then I came to realize that even though my husband and I don’t actually farm, we have been blessed with careers in agriculture that allow us access to work with others in production agriculture, learn about cutting-edge technologies, work with great people and most importantly have the potential to exert a positive difference in the lives of others which is the reason we both majored in agricultural education. (He is the Fillmore Central agriculture education instructor.) The point I’m trying to make is that often times youth and even adults think that if you aren’t a farmer or rancher you aren’t involved in an agricultural career when in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
It is interesting to note that less than 1 percent of Americans claim farming as an occupation, but there are approximately 22 million people who work in agriculture related fields. Agriculture is the nation’s largest employer! There are over 200 different careers one can choose from in the agricultural field alone. With the diverse careers offered in agriculture, there is practically something for everyone, even if you don’t directly farm or ranch!
I am proud to say that I work for UNL Extension because of the high quality educational programming we offer. In the agricultural area alone, we teach elementary youth through school enrichment, ag awareness programs, 4-H projects, and assist with many other youth programs such as FFA. Extension provides Crop Production Clinics, Soybean Management Field Days, ag risk management programming, the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Demonstration Network and many web-based resources such as CropWatch.unl.edu. Taking technical research from scientists and researchers and getting it into an applicable use into the hands of a producer, crop consultant, or rancher is why we are an “extension” of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Wherever agriculture is, Extension has a presence in some way, shape or form.
In Nebraska we are also fortunate to have the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) which offers 28 highly rated academic programs and two pre-professional programs – from Agribusiness to PGA Golf Management – something for everyone. Its goal is to prepare students as leaders for a future in which demands on food, energy and water systems will challenge sustainability.
When I have my crop science investigation workshops with 4-H’ers we investigate how many careers in our local community are related to agriculture and they are always surprised on the huge impact agriculture has. So whether or not you are the person driving the combine or helping with harvest, there are numerous careers involved in agriculture and I hope you will encourage young people to consider an agricultural career.