By John Stumbos
Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), sees a bright future in agriculture for young people contemplating career choices.
She met with a group of about 75 UC Davis students in November to encourage them to pursue career opportunities in agriculture and also to be effective communicators about the food system. Student leaders known as Aggie Ambassadors, who advocate on behalf of UC Davis' College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, hosted Ross as guest speaker during one of their regular meetings.
"As we grow enough food to feed nine billion people by the year 2050," she said, "we need every one of you to bring your creativity, your enthusiasm, your smarts, and your problem-solving skills that you're learning on this campus to agriculture. This whole food system needs you and needs your dedication."
Ross pointed to a wide diversity of job opportunities in agriculture both on and off the farm, such as specialists in irrigation and water use efficiency, in water quality, in air quality, and in labor. Entomologists, veterinarians, and other scientists are also needed to run CDFA's animal and food safety programs, as well as plant protection programs and inspection services. Opportunities also exist nationally and internationally with the likes of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and Foreign Agricultural Service.
One of the reasons Ross encourages students to consider public service is government lacks enough people who understand the complex biology of farming. "The lack of understanding of agriculture often creates well intended but negative impacts on the ability of farmers and ranchers to remain competitive," she says.