How Useless would Agriculture Be if You Went Hungry?

The agriculture world has been abuzz today with the recent posting of an article titled, College Majors That Are Useless, where the generic terms “Agriculture Majors” sits at #1. Sitting at #4 was Animal Sciences and #5 was Horticulture. Oh, where shall I begin?

First off, one cannot major in agriculture. For example at my alma mater, Kansas State University, and most other land grant univerisities, you enroll in a degree program within the College of Ag. Degree programs may include Animal Sciences & Industry, Horticulture, Ag Communications etc. Upon graduation, you may have earned a degree in Agriculture but it is concentrated in a specific area of study.

Does this journalist (I use that term loosely here, because this was horrible, horrible journalism) have any idea who produces his food and fiber or the science behind creating those products? Obviously not. Agriculture produces more than just food – check out this list of ag prodcuts:

— chewing gum
— detergents
— candles
— photofilm
— shampoo and conditioner
— deoderant
— emery boards
— cotton clothing (got those cotton commericials stuck in your head now?)
— glass
— charcoal
— medicine
— wallpaper
— chalk
— cake mix

I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Loose (so-called journalist) uses one or more of those items on a regular basis. In addition to all those non-food products, let’s not forget that if it weren’t for AGRICULTURE, ANIMAL SCIENCE and HORTICULTURE, there would not be a food supply.
Agriculture graduates, regardless of their specific major, are employable in thousands of different job settings. A degree in agriculture is not necessarily indicative of a career as a farm manager. What about agriculture education, academia, meat industry, research, the thousands of veterinary clinics in the U.S., feed processing, ag sales – I could go on and on. Think about the number of agriculture jobs that there isn’t even a need for yet? As our population continues to grow, so will our need for producers and people to develop new ways to feed so many people. I would be willing to bet that Terence wouldn’t be saying agriculture degrees were useless if he was starving and naked.

There have been a multitude of blog posts and tweets circulate because of this outrageous article. Anna-Lisa Giannini has even created a Facebook group called “I Studied Agriculture and I Have a Job”, which already has over 2500 likes. You can also check out these links to other blog posts on the topic:

— Allen Levine, Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota wrote a piece of The Huffington Post
— Food For Thought colleague, Tera Rooney, on the Food For Thought blog
— An Open Letter to Terence Loose by Rebekah Bowen
— Greg Henderson of Drover’s CattleNetwork, wrote Yahoo! Please Don’t Mess with the Goat Ropers

Also, if you want to send your own response to Terence Loose, you can do so by emailing him at

Let agriculture’s voice be heard!

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


7 responses to “How Useless would Agriculture Be if You Went Hungry?”

  1. Love it! Great post!


  2. While I agree with you as far as the importance of agriculture, having read the article, I also agree with the author. He wasn't saying that agriculture is unimportant, or even that an ag degree is unimportant or useless per se. He was saying that if you are going back to school in order to get yourself a job or a better job, then, by and large, according to the companies that were surveyed (would have been nice to know what the business sectors were for those) then a degree in any of the 3 ag related fields probably are going to do nothing more than saddle you with debt you'll never pay off even if you could get into that field. In general, if you're going back to college so you can get a better job, a degree in horticulture, animal sciences, or any other part of agriculture isn't going to help you at all.

    With continuing consolidation in agriculture, especially animal ag, there are going to be fewer and fewer jobs in those field related to animal growing and breeding. About the only area I've seen a real need for more people is large animal vets in certain areas. And then too, I think you need a veterinary degree to inspect plants for FSIS and they've been short handed for years and years. But even given that, you're best bet at getting a job in animal agriculture is a job at a meat plant on the line, and I don't think you need a degree for that. Besides, those jobs pay low enough you'd never get your student loan paid off anyway.

    Horticulture might still have some potential, depending on what you studied in horticulture (greenhouse work, various types of propagation, field crops, etc.) Now, if you were to go into the nursery industry, you might have a chance of working your way up to a fairly well paying job. That degree would even give you a good chance at starting your own business.

    I'm saying this as someone who has been making her living in agriculture for the past 3 years as a farm owner/grower with no ag degree.

  3. Joanne,

    While I appreciate your comment and reading my blog, I must respectfully disagree with you. With the growing popularity of niche marketing programs and the increasingly strong awareness of animal well-being, animal science jobs are on the rise. Next week, I am attending an agriculture career fair that will feature over 75 employers, many of which will be seeking animal science grads. Yes, there are lots of jobs in meat plants, however, there are lots of jobs in marketing, research, sales, management and more. If you check out a website like you can see the need for animal science degrees. I can't speak for much of the horticulture industry in terms of degrees because mine are in animal science and ag econ. However, I do work at a nursery and see that industry continuing to grow proportionally with the rate of urbanization.

    Like I said, I appreciate your honest opinion and hope you'll continue to read my blog and comment.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. As someone who works in the meat industry, but not at a plant – I can say that there is considerable growth. Not just with my company, but I've seen many companies continually hiring.

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  6. I supose it depends on what part of agriculture you want to work in. For instance, I definately want my veterinarian to have a college degree.

    But the vast majority of people going back to college in order to find work post graduation are not going into agriculture, horticulture or any animal related business. In that case, an agriculture degree would be worthless.

  7. Thanks for the comment Web!

    Joanne – just because people aren't going back to those doesn't mean they're worthless. It just means that they're not exploring those opportunities. That author saying that agriculture degrees, horticulture and animal science degrees aren't yielding jobs right now is absurd. Jobs all over in agriculture.