School is out for the summer, but true learning, discovering and exploring is a fluid cycle that never stops. In youth, and even in adulthood, it is the experiences we have and the people we meet that direct our course and shape our lives. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is the question that every young person ponders and is one of the most important decisions a person will make about the direction of his or her life.
David T. Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, recently offered some comments on the value of pursuing a career in agriculture.
"The agriculture industry is a solid, but often overlooked, bet as a career choice," the director says.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects jobs for agriculture and food science majors will grow 16% between 2008 and 2018. That is good news for our state, which is based significantly on food and agriculture. That is also good news for the hundreds of thousands of young people who will soon be entering the jobs market.
"You don't have to be a farmer to choose an agriculture-related field," Daniels says.
There are more than 200 agriculture-related jobs in various fields, including horticulture, animal science, food business, agricultural communications and education, food science, biological engineering, plant breeding and genetics, biology, forestry, biochemistry, microbiology, and entomology.
Many people are not directly involved in agriculture, but every person in this state is touched by agriculture every single day, he says.
"I recently had the opportunity to visit the "Amazing Maize" exhibit at the Indiana State Museum. Even I was surprised to learn that this important crop started more than 10,000 years ago in the heart of Mexico and, whether we realize it or not, is still supremely important in our everyday lives. Today, it takes 25 corn plants per person per day to support the American way of life. It is in thousands of products everywhere. I'm talking about sweeteners, plastics, fuel, textiles, biodegradable plastics, cereal, chips, cosmetics, kitty litter, paints, paper goods, and even automobile components."
Daniels says, Gov. John Kasich also understands the importance of the agriculture industry to our state and has made it a priority to keep people involved in agriculture and related fields and to leverage new jobs in this state.
"One way this is happening is through the Agriculture is Cool! program at the Ohio State Fair. At the governor's direction, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Expo Commission and Ohio Farm Bureau are helping to revitalize an interest in agriculture and educating young people about agriculture through interactive exhibits, such as milking a real cow, riding a tractor simulator, interacting with baby animals, and learning about livestock."
This year marks the second year of the program that will run at the Ohio State Fair, July 25-Aug. 5. Those who completed the fourth grade this school year can bring their grade card, which will get them and a chaperone into the fair for free. While they are there, they will enjoy the fair and learn about agriculture. They can also write an essay about their experience for a chance to win a $500 scholarship. Although the program is geared toward 4th graders, people of all ages are encouraged to participate in the displays and to learn about why agriculture is cool. To learn more about the Agriculture is Cool! program, go to www.agri.ohio.gov/agiscool/ .
"We want to dispel the myths about a misunderstood industry and expose people to a side of agriculture they have probably never seen before," Daniels says. "We can only hope that this will end up being one of those experiences that will have a lasting impact on a young person's life. There's no denying that agriculture is here to stay."
Agriculture was the foundation on which the State of Ohio was built, he says. Today, the food and agriculture industry is just as important as ever, adding $105 billion to the state's economy and providing one in seven Ohioans with jobs. As we continue to find new uses for our crops and the many products made from them, this industry will continue to carry our state into a prosperous future. That means more jobs and a better quality of life.
"I was fortunate enough to know my direction in life involved agriculture. From the time I was 12 years old I knew I wanted to be a farmer. But you don't have to be a farmer to reap the benefits of an agriculture-related job; there is tremendous opportunity for those not born into this industry."