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Fodder for Thought

Agriculture Is Gaining Favor With College Students

Enrollment is up dramatically in ag studies and especially among young women.

This week marks the beginning of fall classes at the University of Kentucky and this is the first time in over six years that I don’t have any classes to start. While it’s a definitely a relief, I find myself feeling a bit odd.

While I am finishing my academic pursuit of agricultural sciences this semester, many, many more young people are just beginning theirs, and with good reason. Universities and colleges are seeing higher demand for agricultural degrees than ever before. In a recent USA Today article, Ian Maw, vice president for food, agriculture and natural resources at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in our nation’s capital describes his reasoning behind the booming interest in ag:

“There’s a better understanding that when we use the term agriculture, it’s not all plows and cows. It’s clearly looking at the real intricacies of science and innovation.”

Maw couldn’t be more right. For once, it seems that more and more people understand that to grow food it takes more than digging a hole and planting a seed. Growing food is a science in its own right, which collaborates with the likes of other major sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and engineering.

My alma mater, Penn State, a well-known agricultural education and research powerhouse, has reported an increase in enrollment in agricultural degrees by as much as 40% since 2004. Iowa State University claims a success rate of 95% for job placement of graduates in the agriculture and engineering degree programs.

Even more exciting is the increase in women studying agriculture. This summer, the Food and Agriculture Education Information System reported that women now out-number men in undergraduate agricultural degree programs. The common theme among women following this agricultural path is the desire to avoid office work. These women want to enjoy the outdoors, work the land and take a hands-on approach to their careers.

While we will continue to hear the claims of an ‘epidemic of aging farmers,’ there is no denying that despite the claims, the future of agriculture is looking better and brighter every day with the burning passion from young people filling the ranks of agricultural degree programs across the country.

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