As a child, one of my favorite Disney movies was Toy Story. Recently I entered one of my ag classes and was reminded just how vast our agriculture is. In my mind, I could hear Buzz Lightyear shouting “TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!”
This fact sheet, provided by North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, shows “American agriculture provides jobs — including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing, along with retail and wholesale sales — for 15 percent of the U.S. population.” Pretty impressive if you ask me.
Furthermore, the sheet states that 22 million people are directly or indirectly involved in ag. Even more shocking is only 4.6 million of that 22 million people live on farms and ranches, with 2 million people actually farming or ranching. When you think about it, these 2 million people have a huge responsibility.
I am grateful for and in awe of the number of jobs that are in or related to agriculture. To some, the food and fiber system consists of farming or ranching. High school and college students know this is simply not the case. While the good old standard degrees of animal science, ag business, ag education, agronomy, meat science, and horticulture are still pursued, there are many more degree options such as biotechnology, ag engineering, viniculture, ag communications, ag law, and ag policy. Again, we know agriculture is much more.
Colleges offer various degrees related to agriculture, and options increase as technology advances and innovations emerge. Many young people with or without a background in food and fiber are pursuing agriculture related degrees, and this is exciting. This encourages me to continue my college education in ag communications. I see changes in the education system as a good sign for me and those of you reading this. I see these changes as future employment opportunities.
Our society changes, and so must the food and fiber system. The NC State fact sheet shows that about 83% of farmers and ranchers have computers that are used daily to stay updated on on market trends and, in general, agriculture trends. Even in tractors or combines, many farmers depend on the latest technology while in the field! In addition, Facebook and Twitter help connect farmers with customers, which leads to a learning opportunity for both. This is great news. And, customers are using their computers to find more information about where their food comes from. Not every farmer or rancher uses social media, but as the image of agriculture gets misrepresented by agenda-driven activists hell-bent on ending what we love, we aggies need to share our story every chance we get!
As the world population continues to grow, an estimated 9 billion people by 2050, our goal as agriculturalists and customers should be to grow and supply enough food and fiber to satisfy everyone. A big feat this will be. But I know it will happen because we have come a long way from doing everything by hand and pack animal. I think about what the future holds for modern agriculture and it blows my mind. I think of the positive accomplishments of U.S. agriculture, from hi-tech farm machinery to biotechnology to advances in genetics — and so much more.
What lies ahead for our agriculture will certainly be found in infinity and beyond.
Rock on Farm on,
the Ag Nerd