Agriculture feels the sting of an inaccurate charge
Opportunities in agriculture abound. Yet there is a social stigma in the mainstream media that in order to be successful, students must leave their roots in agriculture to pursue other studies.
In response to an online article by Yahoo writer Terrence Loose that called a degree in agriculture the most "useless" college degree in America, Farm Journal rallied the troops by creating a Facebook page called "I Studied Agriculture and I Have a Job." At press time, more than 4,500 students, industry professionals and farmers with "useless" degrees had flocked to the page to proclaim their success stories.
"Kudos for uniting the ag community and giving ag alumni a place to share our stories," wrote Shannon Latham, vice president of Latham Seeds. "Production agriculture should no longer be one of the nation’s best kept secrets."
A flood of support. Shortly after the Yahoo article went viral, Laurence Shatkin, a career information author who is cited in the story, wrote on our page, "I agree with you that agriculture is a useful degree. The industry is doing fine and will support many workers. Farm ownership is going to decline, but salaried managers and many other workers will find increased jobs. I think the journalist’s slant on the story was a poor choice."
Those who studied agriculture certainly agree. More than 100 fans applauded his stance, "liking" the statement and sharing it with their Facebook friends.
The Yahoo article also received scrutiny from several college officials. Allen Levine, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota, wrote on the Huffington Post website that Loose’s list of the most useless college degrees was taken from a similar story written for the Daily Beast this past May.
"While I’m hesitant to give the list, which is based almost entirely on U.S. Labor Department projections and one author’s opinions, more credibility than it deserves, this blog post is so far off base it has to be refuted," he wrote.
Levine explains that while the data shows there will be fewer independently owned farms, that doesn’t equate to fewer jobs because all farms need managers. He points out the opportunity for new producers to begin farming because the average farmer is on the brink of retirement, not to mention the fact that the global population will continue to grow.
Mike Gaul, director of career services for Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life
Sciences, also disagreed with Loose’s remarks. "Everything that’s happening at our college completely contradicts the Yahoo article. We have the highest [job] placement rate on campus at 98.1%," Gaul said in a response to the Yahoo story.
One fact remains: The present time couldn’t be more positive for young people in agriculture, and the opportunities to learn couldn’t be more vast.
- Mid-February 2012