We received quite a few comments about the column on the uselessness of ag majors.
Several readers were offended that someone would disparage their choice of study and career. And they all agreed that agriculture will continue to need well-educated, intelligent and committed people to meet the challenge of feeding and clothing a rapidly growing world population.
I was pleased to hear from two old friends from my days in the Southeast. Steve Brown, an Extension specialist in Georgia when I covered that circuit, now works in the ag industry.
Steve wrote to say: “I just read your commentary, ‘Taking issue with negative article on ag majors.’ Well stated! Good stuff. In contrast to Mr. Loose’s belief about ‘useless’ majors, ag offers incredible opportunity. As I look around in EVERY direction– farms; universities; basic chemical, technology, and seed companies; distribution and retail; and even journalist enterprises – there are so few people ‘on deck.’”
John Richardson, a county Extension agent in Robeson County, North Carolina, when I plied my trade in that vicinity, commented: “What was so remarkable was that a few weeks ago…one of the many business magazines and pages that I review… labeled an agriculture major as one of the top 10 for opportunity for all college majors. Anyway, I loved your column and just wanted you to know that idiots and stupid have always seemed synonymous in my eyes.”
Reader Don Burt responded: “I attended Texas A&M, got an agriculture degree, worked in insurance claims for a career and operated a 500-acre stock and cropland farm at the same time. It all turned out very profitable for me.”
W.F. Bennett wrote: “I spent 30 years on the ag faculty at TTU (Texas Tech), and liked every minute of it (almost). Much of my work was with students other than in the classroom. I often tell the story about when a dad and his son would come to visit about the young man enrolling in ag and let us ‘teach the boy how to farm.’ My response: If you want him to learn to farm, take him back home and teach him –you can do a better job than we can. But if you want him to learn some science and history, economics, how to think and reason, and a few other things to make his life better and, we hope, his work more profitable, then leave him, and we will try to do that.
“Thanks for all you and others do for agriculture.”
And just today I received a report from Ag Careers.com that states the agricultural industry is doing quite well, thank you very much. In fact, the on-line agriculture employment newsletter shows “a positive outlook for the agriculture industry. Agriculture companies are anticipating gains, rewarding employees and looking to fill job openings with qualified talent.”
Where will they find that qualified talent? Ag schools—Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, New Mexico State, Texas Tech, Mississippi State, Louisiana State, Auburn, University of Georgia, Clemson University—I can’t leave out my Alma Mater—and every other land grant and a few private ag institutions across the nation.
Ag majors will fill most of these slots. Maybe a few lucky souls with degrees in English literature will find their way into the field, but most ag industry jobs will go to folks who train for careers in agriculture.
AgCareers.com reports that in 2011 the number of ag jobs posted in North America grew by 18 percent; that comes from 43,000 jobs posted by companies in the United States and Canada.
In a time when the overall job market is just beginning to turn the corner—we hope—agriculture is leading the way.
Ag majors, useless? Not hardly!