Agricultural Careers Abound — Encourage Youth to Pursue Them

Agricultural Careers Abound — Encourage Youth to Pursue Them

October 28, 2011

Brandy VanDeWalle, the author, originally wrote this personal column for her local newspaper. VanDeWalle, extension educator in Fillmore County, coordinates the CropWatch Youth Section where educators and 4-H leaders can find ag related resources for youth.

Recently, my three-year-old daughter had the opportunity to ride with my dad in a combine and loved it! While this is not a new experience for rural kids, it is an unusual one for town kids, which made me stop to think about some things.

Visiting a combine

The author's father and daughter enjoy a view from the combine at harvest.  (Photo by Brandy VanDeWalle)

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 in 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 to work with great people in production agriculture, learn about cutting-edge technologies, and most importantly have the potential to exert a positive difference in the lives of others -- this is the reason we both majored in agricultural education. (My husband is the agriculture education instructor at Fillmore Central High School.) Often youth and even adults think that if you aren’t a farmer or a rancher, you aren’t involved in an agricultural career when in fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is interesting to note that less than one percent of Americans claim farming as an occupation, but approximately 22 million people work in agriculture related fields. Agriculture is the nation’s largest employer! There are over 200 diverse careers in agriculture, 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 and 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, applying it to production agriculture, and getting information 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).  It 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. For more information on all that CASNR offers for college students, go to casnr.unl.edu.

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. They are always surprised by the huge impact agriculture has on their community. From whatever field you work in in agriculture, I hope you will take time to encourage young people to consider a future in agriculture.

Brandy VanDeWalle
Extension Educator, Fillmore County