If you live, work, play or even go to school in South Dakota you probably know agriculture is a part of many aspects of life in our state. However, it may surprise you to find out that farming these days is so much more than a farmer, a tractor, animals and a plot of land.
Today there are so many career options that are directly related to agriculture that doesn’t have anything to do with being directly on the farm working with the land or animals. Just 15 to 20 years ago these agriculture career options were not even possible.
Here are 5 ways you can have a career in agriculture — beyond being a farmer:
#1 - Urban Farmer:
Many people look across the prairie and see wide open spaces for farming. However, this isn’t always the case, especially in larger cities. Today, farmers are doing more with less land. In fact, you no longer need to live in the country to be considered a farmer; you can be an urban farmer!
Urban farmers use smaller spaces than what might be traditionally considered “farmland” and use it to grow a variety of fruits and veggies, raise small animals such as chickens and even have a hive or two of bees.
Many urban farmers recycle old shipping containers to use as farm pods. In these containers, there is a good source of light and water, as well as shelves or towers for crops to grow on. This allows for nearly year-round fresh crops for many who might not have access otherwise, especially in cold winter months.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also offers many programs and grants to empower urban agriculture pioneers to bring many aspects of urban farming to their cities and towns. Check out this toolkit if you are interested in starting your own small-scale urban farm.
#2 - Farm-to-school coordinator:
Where did your milk at school come from? How about the lettuce or the burger you enjoy? Or even the applesauce that comes with lunch each day? A farm-to-school coordinator may have helped get it there.
In this role, a person can work with farmers and schools to help locally sourced products find their way onto cafeteria trays for kids to eat. They also act as an educational resource to help not only get nutritional food to students but also to educate students where that food comes from.
Healthy, community-smart agriculture and not just for big cities! Some farm-to-school programs in both urban and rural communities help teach kids that farms are essential to the food supply and encourage children and their families to make smart decisions to choose local products when they shop at the neighborhood market or grocery store.
#3 - Agriculture Communications:
Are you known as a social butterfly and you enjoy talking, engaging and being social with members of the community? A career in communications might be right for you. Better yet, if you enjoy engaging and educating the community about where food comes from, you might be a great fit for agriculture communications.
In this role you can work with farmers to provide the information and resources to help make their job even easier.
Here are just some of the fun things ag communications professionals get to do:
Write and create social media posts
Direct videos and other digital media projects
Create marketing plans
Plan and execute events for both consumer and farmer audiences
Give speeches to teach people about agriculture
Attend events with community leaders such as congressmen and celebrities
Promote ag at local, state and national fairs and events
In fact, an agriculture communications professional wrote and designed this article for you and your family to enjoy!
#4 - Seed scientists and geneticists:
Middle and high school kids have surely studied Gregor Mendel in science class, but what does he have to do with acres and acres of field corn? Seen as the father of modern genetics, he helped kick off what we know today as a way of growing the best crops with genetics!
Seeds directly contribute to over 70% of the food that people consume directly through our breads, cereals, corn and rice just to name a few examples. Many of the meat products we eat also rely on seeds to raise the feed the animals eat. Seed scientists and geneticists help develop more more-sustainable seeds and crops to help ensure a safe and abundant food supply for the future.
#5 - IT and Software Engineering:
Modern farm equipment is far from the old days of simply hooking up equipment and starting into the field to plant or harvest a crop for the season. Now there are many more parts and pieces to modern equipment, some of which even include iPads and tablets to help farmers run their precision agriculture equipment.
Specially created computer software and apps help farmers know exactly how and when to plant and harvest their crops with a high level of accuracy. However, much like your laptop, tablet or even phone, that tech can run into some issues. That’s why highly skilled IT and software engineering professionals are becoming even more important than ever to agriculture.
Tomorrow's ag industry is embracing digital transformations with even more data collected via different processes such as artificial intelligence, connected sensors and even high-tech computer models. You can be there as a software engineer or IT professional to help guide the industry to the next tech advancement!
It all starts with a seed.
It doesn’t matter if you’re out in the field planting seeds with precision agriculture technology or teaching children how to be better stewards of the land, agriculture touches nearly every aspect of life in both urban and rural settings. What will we see happen over the next 15 to 20 years? We're sure the advancements will give birth to careers we can't even imagine yet!
And none of this would be possible without that seed.