Why U.S. Universities Must Continue To Encourage Careers In Agriculture

November 1st, 2012

Guest Blogger: Lenore Holditch

According to the USDA, half of all current farmers in the United States are nearing retirement. This could be a big problem, because training for a career in agriculture has not been a popular choice among most college students for the better part of a century. A labor shortage could be on the horizon, and this is why universities, especially land-grant universities, must work harder to encourage students to think about a career in farming or ranching.

As a modernized country, we have the luxury of never having to think about how our food gets to us, but this doesn’t mean that the system is perfect or indestructible. Although the mechanization of farming could help lessen the effects of a labor shortage, it most certainly would not produce quality food. It would also further destroy the environment.

If the country wants to have a productive food system that is healthy, it must focus on sustainable farming practices, and this requires better training in land stewardship and local, small business farming. This training responsibility should fall squarely on the shoulders of our public universities; namely those that were originally established for the purpose of agriculture and mechanics education (land-grant universities).

Why is it so important to focus on sustainable agriculture training, especially since so many statistics show it is not profitable? The answer is; sustainable farming practices are the best for our nation’s health and future. Admittedly, since the Industrial Revolution, the business of family farming has decreased dramatically, but the negative effects of industrial farming and agribusiness cannot be ignored.

Those negative effects include a decline in soil health and water quality, a rise in the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, a decline in nutritious food choices and monopolization of supply by a small number of large-scale farms. Poor farming practices and corporate agriculture may help keep our food prices low, but that doesn’t make it the best method. More people are becoming conscious of this, and this is why we have seen a rise in demand for organic and local food.

Universities should see this demand as a perfect opportunity to prepare incoming students for a career in sustainable, small business agriculture. After all, behind huge public demand lies a great small business opportunity. Farming still is a relevant career (even in this modern age), because besides clean water, food is the basis of life. It is also a satisfying career that should be revered and fostered by the public, especially by land-grant universities.

If you are interested in learning more about a career in farming or sustainable agriculture, please visit the USDA’s official website at USDA.gov or the Center for Rural Affairs official site at CFRA.org.

Lenore Holditch is a freelance writer and blogger who has contributed articles to numerous education resource websites, such as www.TopOnlineColleges.com. Her writing often focuses on anything related to higher learning, including technology, education reform and basic advice for students. Please share your comments and questions with Lenore below.

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