My youngest daughter, Emily, is 17 and a junior in high school, which means we're intently focused on developing a career path and identifying potential colleges. We've been talking about her interests for some time. She loves science and the outdoors. She's also very bright, task oriented and organized.
In eighth grade, she told me she wanted to be an archeologist. Ok, I said, and left it at that. But, as she got older, I prompted her to think a little more about her career ambitions.
I'm a firm believer that work should be something you enjoy – at least most of the time. This kind of work is what makes a career. However, I'm also an advocate for being very practical, especially if there are college loans involved. There are numerous other aspects of a career to consider, including job availability, location, flexibility, pay, hours and benefits. Just because you love something, or think you do, it may not fit into your expectations in those regards.
Emily says, "Mom, I am not a desk person. I don't think I could handle being behind a computer all day."
OK, maybe I'm a little biased, but I pointed out that agriculture encompasses hundreds of different job opportunities. I didn't push, but the areas she's interested, are where agriculture needs bright young people. Most importantly, the jobs are there. Good paying jobs that will be in high demand by the time she graduates and beyond.
I don't live on a farm and Emily is now two generations removed from any agricultural production (I don't think my garden counts), but being connected to a farm is in no way a prerequisite to pursuing an ag degree, which opens up an abundance of opportunities beyond the farm gate. There are ag careers in research, soils, plant health, nutrition, sales, communication, management, mechanics, financing, grain merchandising and so much more.
There are literally thousands of jobs associated with the production of feed, food and fiber. As a little introduction to agriculture, Emily took a part time job this summer at Andy T's Farms in St. Johns. Andy and his wife, Sunday, were very enthusiastic and supportive of her interest in agriculture.
While at Andy T's, she learned the proper watering of a plant (she did a lot of this), composting, pruning and harvesting an array of vegetables. She learned how staggered planting ensures a more constant, fresh supply of Andy's famous "gourmet" sweet corn and other vegetables, as well as proper sizing. She also learned important people skills, how to problem solve and communicate effectively with other employees and Andy. I know she's not afraid to get dirty because most days she'd come home and head right for the shower. One day she came home covered – head to toe – in mud, although I'm not sure that was entirely work related.
Emily gets a particularly big smile on her face when she talks about driving the Kubota.
With school now back in session, I am very excited that her agricultural exposure continues now that Clinton County has its first Ag, Food and Natural Resources class in many years. I never really understood why this county, anchored heavily in agriculture, did not offer such a class. It's a two-hour class through the Regional Educational Service Agency, and they've already done some wonderful educational field trips, as well as establishing a new FFA chapter.
Recently, I had the privilege of being a guest speaker for the class talking about interviewing skills, my job duties and experiences, as well as opportunities in the industry. It's so nice to see young people getting excited about agriculture. We need to continue to encourage young people to consider working in agriculture, even if they don't come from a farming background – we're going to need them!