“Agriculture is the greatest and fundamentally the most important of our industries. The cities are but the branches of the tree of national life, the roots of which go deeply into the land. We all flourish or decline with the farmer.” – Bernard Baruch
It’s funny how most people don’t realise the important of agriculture and how it influences individuals, community and civilisation as a whole. Agriculture provides us with the most important necessity in life – food. On top of this, the industry plays an important role in creating jobs for the labour market, boosting the economy, and triggering an increase in rural productivity, raising incomes and keeping families away from the poverty line.
The role of agriculture is enormous and one that is tasked with many responsibilities. For one, agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing incomes for 40 per cent of today’s global population. According to the United Nations, it is the main source of income for poorer, rural households. It is also through agriculture that the UN hopes to end world hunger, attain food security, improve nutrition, and achieve sustainable agriculture. After all, the food and agriculture sector offers solutions for development and is vital to the eradication of poverty and world hunger..
It is also an excellent industry if you’re keen to pursue a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related fields. After all, the demand for skilled agricultural workers is increasing, as in the UK alone, the business of agriculture is estimated to recruit 60,000 newcomers over the next 10 years, according to figures from The Guardian. Across the pond, the U.S. is also seeing a surge in demand for highly-skilled workers as the number of job openings is expected to increase over the next five years, reports CNBC.
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A study conducted by the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that jobs relating to the field of agriculture and life-science related fields will be highly sought-after. Aside from that, half of the openings will be in management and business, STEM, education, communication, or governmental areas relating to food and agriculture. For prospective students who wonder how they can get their foot firmly through the door of their agricultural career – this is exactly how.
“Agriculture is going through a transformation itself into more of that digital space,” says Melissa Harper, Vice President of Global Talent acquisition at Monsanto. “Many of the roles that we need—and those in agriculture need—didn’t exist just five years ago.”
The notion that the only jobs available in agriculture are farming-related couldn’t be further from the truth. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack understands how the misconception often happens: “There is a tendency to look at agriculture through a very narrow prism of production agriculture,” he says.
“It’s not just production agriculture now but this is an expanding, entrepreneurial, creative, opportunistic aspect of our economy that I think will continue.”
With The Guardian reporting that more students are studying agriculture in UK higher education than any other subject, it’s no secret that the sector is on the up and up. If you have a love for the environment and a strong sense of responsibility for our planet, you’re bound to fit right in.
According to Dr David Llewellyn, Vice Chancellor of Harper Adams University, working in agriculture allows you to address many issues that we globally face. “Some of the most pressing global concerns involve the future provision of food, the impact of climate change and the management of rural land and environments,” he explains.
“We believe that we make a vital contribution by producing graduates with the capacity to address these issues, helping develop those already in work who need to acquire new skills and by creating knowledge that will help the rural sector, its businesses and its communities to flourish.”
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If you’re interested in the business of agriculture, here are three leading UK universities in agricultural education…
Harper Adams University, set on a 350 hectare estate in beautiful rural Shropshire, is the Times/Sunday Times 2016 Modern University of the Year. Specialising in subjects related to food security, the university offers undergraduate degrees, Masters programmes, diplomas and certificates in agriculture, food business management, rural enterprise and land management, entomology, engineering, agroecology and more.
Established in 1901 to professionalise the agricultural industry, Harper Adams University is now the leading university for agriculture and the rural food supply chain, with HRH Princess Anne as its chancellor. All BSc students complete a one year industrial placement as part of their four-year programme, giving invaluable real-world experience of the work place – as a result more than 99% of graduates are in employment within six months of graduation.
Following an extended period of investment in staff and facilities, the university holds a number of undergraduate and postgraduate open afternoons/open days throughout the year. Students have the opportunity to tour the campus, meet current students and hear talks from leading academics – including tours of the university’s working farm.
Although learning is a part of higher education, the University of Nottingham believes research plays an equally important role in educating and developing students to become agents of change and sustainability, which is why research is a recurring theme in all its world-class courses. At Nottingham, the Department covers a broad range of subjects, including fundamental studies of ecosystem processes like microbiology, soil science, and many more. Its research focuses on improving agricultural production systems, enhancing sustainability and addressing issues of food security.
The School of Biosciences provides a wide range of undergraduate, postgraduate (taught), postgraduate (research) and short courses. In addition to providing a solid academic foundation, the university lets students participate in a year-long industrial placement between Year 2 or Year 3 if you’re studying agriculture, crop and plant sciences, animal science, biotechnology, food and nutritional sciences, environmental sciences or microbiology.
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Ensuring students receive a strong academic education is not the only thing that Newcastle University excels at, since the institution shows it’s also pretty good at providing students with work experience opportunities via its strong employer links. The university, which is a part of the Top 20 ‘most targeted’ universities, attracts companies like PwC, Jaguar Land Rover, Goldman Sachs and Aldi, as well as local employers. The establishment offers several undergraduate degrees in specific subjects, including agri-business, agriculture, animal science, environment and food.
For those looking beyond their undergraduate degree, you can pursue one of Newcastle’s esteemed postgraduate programmes. In addition to this, the university – which also has a world-class reputation for research – has its own department within the school of Agriculture, Food & Rural Development, with four cross-cutting research themes focused on the following goals:- creating safe, ethical and nutritious food, searching for efficient and resilient production systems, locating sustainable landscapes and production systems, and ensuring vibrant rural communities and enterprises.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International