Interesting Careers in Agriculture

In a previous two-part article we highlighted the fact that not many students are choosing agriculture as a career option and agricultural institutions are not attracting the “cream of the crop”.

A sample of students at the Barbados Community College was asked what careers in agriculture they were aware of. Over ninety percent of the respondents replied “farming”. When pushed further they mentioned other areas such as teaching.

The sample, though small, suggests that students lack information on the diversity of agriculture and the vast career options available in agriculture and agriculturally related fields from a basic start in agriculture.

What is also not immediately apparent is the importance of agriculture to the economy, as almost every industry is connected to agriculture. “Careers in Agriculture” from the International Student Guide to the United States of America states, “How, you may ask, is automobile manufacturing related to agriculture? Actually in many ways, but one obvious example is what you sit on in the car. The seat is probably made of either cloth or leather which are both derivatives of the agricultural industry”. Students are aware of the more traditional fields such as farming, teaching, agricultural trade but are quite ignorant of the wide range of exciting choices available to them.

To highlight this point we will use a few examples to show the range of careers that are associated with agricultural production.

We will start with a cattle farm. This can be either producing milk (a dairy) or meat. The first and most obvious is the farmer or farm manager who controls and directs farm operations including all decision making and analysis as well as implementation of farm practices. Even if the farmer is not formally trained, he/she still requires knowledge in a number of areas to help in the day to day running of the farm. This knowledge may be acquired through training, practice and years of experience; or the farmer may solicit the help of several persons. These persons may directly or indirectly assist the farmer to achieve the objective of producing healthy strong cows that are either going to give milk or meat. They also provide information that help the enterprise to be productive and profitable. The following are a few of the persons who are involved in helping the farmer achieve his objectives.

Veterinarians diagnose, treat, and help prevent disease and disabilities in animals. The DVM (doctor of veterinary medicine) degree opens up many career choices. Veterinarians can be practitioners, researchers, public servants, administrators, or teachers.
They may work with one or more species of animal, or with additional training, in a clinical specialty such as cardiology, surgery, or neurology. Veterinarians safeguard human health by controlling diseases that can spread from animals to humans.

Animal nutritionists formulate diets for animals. They work with all types of animals ranging from mammals to aquatic life. The diets they create must be nutritionally sound, good-tasting, and economical for the ages and types of animals in question.

Agricultural engineers – When the knowledge of engineering and biological science is applied to agriculture, it is called agricultural engineering. Agricultural engineers apply basic science and engineering principles as they design solutions to engineering problems in agricultural production. They design agricultural machinery and facilities such as tractors, tools, implements, housing, buildings, storage and handling facilities, irrigation and drainage systems, as well as machinery for installing these systems and soil conservation measures.

Geneticists study genes from plants, animals, and humans to determine how they interact with each other, evolve, and duplicate. Some geneticists are breeders (quantitative genetics) who produce superior plants and animals through selective breeding, improving the quality and quantity of milk ,meat and fibre production. Geneticists who are also molecular biologists (biotechnologists) work directly with genes to develop superior seed and animal germplasm.

Computer programmers design programmes which assist the farmer in managing the farm. Some farmers are able to manage their farms from their laptops or even their cellular phones.

Soil scientists study the physical, chemical, biological, and fertility properties of soils in relation to their use and management for growing crops for human consumption or pastures and inputs for animal feed.

Agronomists apply aspects of both soil science and the several plant sciences to the husbandry of these crops.

Integrated Pest Management is an area which involves Plant Pathologists (who study plant diseases), Entomologists (who study insects) , Nematologists ( who study nematodes) . These persons, along with agronomists, recommend preventive and corrective measures to maintain crop health.

This article has so far has focused on the science side of on farm agriculture, but careers may also deal with treatment of food after it leaves the farm as well as other related business areas such as marketing, merchandising and economics. We will deal with these in a subsequent article.

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