I am an Agriculture Economics major with a Marketing specialty and a Political Science minor.
It’s a mouthful.
Upon graduation, I would like to work abroad for USAID providing humanitarian assistance to developing countries. The skills I’m learning now, as an Ag Econ major, are paving a successful path to this goal.
Yet, whenever I mention what I’m studying to friends, family, or coworkers, I’m greeted with the very common question, “So you want to farm?”
A common misconception regarding the agricultural industry is that it’s limited to cows, sows, and plows. Yet, the agricultural industry is so broad and diverse, that I can’t even begin to explain all of it in a brief blog post – but I’ll give it a shot.
What is agriculture?
I can’t say I would blame anyone who would automatically assume that agriculture has to fit snugly into the box of “farming.” In fact, just check out Merriam Webster’s definition of agriculture:
“the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products”
At a quick glance, it might be easy to determine from that definition that agriculture is primarily farming. However, when you look at the final portion of the sentence, the, “varying degrees [and] preparation and marketing of the resulting products,” you’ll be taken aback by the vastness of that. Agricultural goods compromised of $775.8 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2012, and the agricultural industry employs more than 21 million individuals to produce, process, and sell the nation’s food and fiber (American Farm Bureau).
These numbers are so large because agriculture encompasses much more than Dwight Schrute’s beet farm. Agriculture does include farming, but also biotechnology, forestry, fisheries, communications and journalism, education, technology management, studying and improving crops, finding sustainable ways to conserve our environment, textiles, economics, business, medicine, and much, much more.
So, agriculture is the process of taking raw inputs and transforming them into usable items for others. It’s the study of doing so. It’s research. It’s integration, renewal, and innovation. Agriculture is how a small portion of workers provides for a global population of 8 billion and growing.
Why choose agriculture?
I’m from a small town of about 1,000, yet I don’t necessarily come from a farming background. I’ve worked and spent time on farms, but they have never been mine or my family’s livelihood. Beginning in high school, though, I quickly developed a passion for the industry though the FFA. I dabbled in horticulture, floriculture, agronomy, and even livestock judging competitions, but found my niche in business and sales. I was astounded by how quickly things in the agricultural industry change. There are new innovations daily. As well as this (I might be a little biased) I feel like the people I’ve met in the agricultural industry are the best I’ve ever come across. They get up early and stay late. They have a deep tie to their faith, family, and land. They have pure hearts. They’re working to improve life and sustain life for the entire globe. Personally, I believe that’s the noblest thing one could do with their life.
This is why you should choose agriculture. Because not only is it so vast, but if anything, it’s one profession that is definitely worth spending your life pursuing.
The next time you’re contemplating what agriculture is and how it affects you, remember this. Hopefully, now you know that agriculture isn’t just farming, and if you tell your lab partner, your lab partner tells their coworker, and that coworker tells the gas station attendee, then maybe we can start to dismantle some of the misconceptions regarding agriculture.