Monday, February 13, 2012

"Agriculture is our wisest pursuit . . .

. . . because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness." Thomas Jefferson

I came across this article a couple weeks ago on Yahoo! about "useless degrees". Now, while many professions could be called "elite" or extremely hard to break into and make the fortune we all seek, I'm not quite sure any degree is completely useless. Although, I do think many thousands of jobless people may disagree with me at this point, and I don't blame them.

However, I take offense to three of these so-called "useless degrees", as they are agriculture related. How on earth did ag majors wind up on this list? Probably from some dingbat who lives in NYC and thinks a fairy delivers everything to the grocery store. 

Useless Degree #1: Just plain old "Agriculture".
Their reason? 

When schools such as the University of Idaho cut their agriculture programs, you know times are tough for this degree. The state has more than 25,000 farms, for cow's sake, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census, in 2007.
Still, if your idea of a good day is getting up with the sun and working till it sets as an agricultural manager, a degree in agriculture might be your calling.
Just don't expect farms and ranches to be calling you, says Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., and author of "The 10 Best College Majors for Your Personality." "It's true that farms are becoming more efficient now and so there is less of a need for farm managers," he says. That means less jobs. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects 64,000 fewer jobs in this field over the next seven years.
Total Number of Agricultural Managers in 2008: 1,234,000
Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: -64,600
Percent Change: -5

Okay, so I completely understand that this "Ag Manager" job is becoming a bit more scarce. But it's not like a degree guarantees you a job in your field, even if you're a business major. In this economy you'd be fortunate to get a job at McD's working the drive-thru. However, if your family in farming/ranching then this is a decent major. Even as a vague degree, this can be helpful in several situations - such as the world supposedly ending or beginning to end as of May 12 of this year. Who the hell is going to bring back farming if not for the ag majors? Who will feed you hungry city folk when the world goes to hell in a Gucci handbag? Yep, the ag majors, that's who.

"We used to be a nation of farmers, but now it's less than two percent of the population in the United States. So a lot of us don't know a lot about what it takes to grow food." - Judith Redmond, Fully Belly Farms

Useless Degree #2: "Animal Science"

Their reason?

Here's another degree aimed at a career that at first glance doesn't look all that discouraging. After all, animal scientist employment is projected by the U.S. Department of Labor to grow 13 percent from 2008 to 2018.
But crunch a few more numbers and you quickly realize that you could be in for stiff competition to grab a piece of that pie. Fewer than 5,000 animal scientist jobs are projected to exist in the field by 2018.
The problem, says Shatkin, is the degree is so specific that trying to apply it to anything else means a tough time convincing people it gives you any useful skills for jobs outside animal science jobs.
Total Number of Animal Scientists in 2008: 3,700
Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: +500
Percent Change: +13

Again, useless? I take special offense as this was my major in college. My degree (as well as past job experience) gave me a leg up on my first job after college. It was a nice push for when I worked at Petco. Now granted my first "real" job at a vet lab wasn't my ideal job, but it was a job that technically utilized my major and my minor (biology). And it was a push to get my job at the vet clinic in Town. And even though I've basically forgotten everything in the 8 years since graduation (it's actually just filed deep in the back . . . ), I still have lecture notes and books to assist me in re-learning while I'm attempting ranching. Yep. Not exactly useless.

“The only difference between a pigeon and the American farmer today is that a pigeon can still make a deposit on a John Deere.” - Jim Hightower

Useless Degree #3: "Horticulture"

Their reason?

If you like the farm life but aren't all that keen on all the whining and clucking of an animal farm, perhaps a degree in horticulture is growing on you.
Unfortunately, the number of jobs in the field itself is not growing, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And Shatkin agrees. "Better than agriculture, but not by much. If you're lucky, you may find some way to apply that to a related business like food processing or production," he says.
Total Number of Farmers and Ranchers in 2008: 985,900
Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018:
Percent Change:

Okay, not much job growth, like the other two, but these (again) are the people you want to know when Armageddon hits and the world begins its end in May. These people are going to know plants and soil like it's nobody's business. Even as an Ag Major I had to take basic horticulture and soil classes - and they bored the hell outta me, therefore, I retained that plants require water and sunlight. So, I'm obviously not some poor city-dweller's ideal prospect for planting. But, it pays to know someone who majored in it, because they can assist with educating folks on how to properly grow crops - enough to feed the village and maybe some extra to appease the Gods or Aliens or even Zombies who are trying to kill people or even Earth.

“The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn't still be a farmer.” - Will Rogers

(By the way, other useless degrees mentioned were Fashion Design and Theater. Now,  considering I can't stand 99.9% of the fashion trends out there, I would consider this a useless degree. But for the folks that live for fashion trends, this is obviously not a completely useless degree.)

Considering that farming and ranching feed the world, people should really stop knocking the industry. Especially since many who do the knocking haven't a clue what farms and ranches have to go through in order to put that food ultimately on your plates. It's not an easy life - it's not an easy job.

"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands." - Thomas Jefferson


  1. I would have thought Primary production (agriculture) would still be a fairly necessary industry to have educated people in.
    I don't tend to put a lot of faith in some of these "experts" and their opinions

    1. I don't put too much stock in their opinions, because usually they are numbers people and not educated in the business much. But still, to tell people agriculture is completely worthless? Ha!

  2. Yahoo! is full of 'useless' articles; their writers need to go back to journalism class...

    Agriculture will always have a place. Because without it, people wouldn't be able to eat. And it bugs the daylights outta me when I see brand new houses going up on what was formerly farmland, when there are houses out there already built that are for sale...

    1. Yes they are! lol I'm not sure what opinionated hacks they have writing for them, but they are one way or the other, hardly ever middle of the road.

      I hate seeing houses being built on farmland as well. Or when cities keep moving their "green belts" back for that purpose. If you take away the farmland, where does the food come from??

  3. The farmers I remember never needed a damn degree to figure out how to make a living off the land. Their degree came from the University of Father, the college of doing, the department of trial and error. If the degree is useless, maybe one should look not at the job, but if you even need it.

    1. Nowadays people want their kids to go to college. And lot of farm/ranch kids major in agriculture and take their degrees home. A lot of them wind up being ag business majors, that was the most popular option. I couldn't stand the professor the upper division classes for that option, so I chose the option that had the nice people. lol


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