Growing human populations place huge demands on the environment. By 2050, it is estimated the human population will have increased by two-three billion, meaning the agriculture industry will have to produce 60 to 80 percent more food than current demands, with a smaller rural labour force than in previous years.
Agriculture graduates entering the industry at this pivotal time are witnessing the increasing demand for highly specialised professionals and the rise of sustainable practice in agriculture. Sustainable agriculture focuses on preserving values and meeting demands of environmental health, economic profit, and social and economic fairness of resources.
“Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” concludes a well-known US Research program.
For today’s agri-students, the ability to receive a proactive education driven and enriched by developing technologies is paramount to safeguarding the future through sustainable farming measures, and here are five institutions committed to the cause.
A fully-accredited institution of the University of Nebraska, and ranked within the top two percent of US residential Colleges, Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture is a strong centre for agronomic acumen, boasting outstanding return investment outcomes with its rank as number four US two-year Colleges for cost effectiveness in securing career outcomes.
Nestled in pastoral Curtis, Nebraska, NCTA’s location lends to its teaching success as the state is almost entirely devoted to agri-business, with farms and ranches taking up 92 percent of Nebraska’s total land area. Cattle, soybeans and wheat are top commodities of Nebraskan farming, and students get to utilise this local expertise on the 550-acre College campus farm, learning how to use cutting-edge irrigation pivot systems and precision technology as industry-ready experience. There are also a number of internships available, locally and across the US.
“NCTA was a place where I could learn hands-on with great professors. I also like the small-town atmosphere that we have in the town of Curtis,” says Aaron Jensen, an Agronomy Major who praised the friendly and practical teaching at NCTA.
The College’s ruralised campus is an entirely specialised site that caters to the agri-students’ needs. Aside from the campus farm, there’s also a 300-acre Agronomy Lab, a Community Garden, Cattle Grazing Lab, a Livestock Teaching Center, and Vetinary Hospital. There are also a number of teaching rooms, library access, and the College’s Student Union, affectionately named ‘The Barn’.
The teaching style at NCTA utilises practical teaching to great effect, letting students exercise every aspect of their studies with purpose-built resources and on-site livestock that College Dean, Dr Ron Rosati, says cater to every specialty.
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College’s striking 421-acre campus is located in Tifton, Georgia. ABAC offers a variety of bachelor’s degree programs and associate degrees across six different schools of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts, Nursing & Health Sciences, Science & Mathematics, and the Stafford School of Business.
At ABAC, the agricultural learning facilities are geared for applied learning, with 200-acres of cropland, greenhouses, a Cattle Production Unit, agricultural and forestry equipment, and a study of Lake Baldwin as one of the many outdoor learning labs.
Rural Studies is an ABAC course growing in popularity, as it explores ‘the evolving field’ of historical and existing rural life, and its content can be applied to other schools of study at ABAC, such as Community Health, Agricultural Communication, Social and Community Development, and agricultural journalism through writing for The Stallion – the College’s award-winning student newspaper.
ABAC studies take a wider scope of consideration for agriculture and human impacts, assimilating it among the other schools of study for a greater outreach into branching industries.
Ranked 17th in 2017 for the US News & World Report Best Colleges list, SUNY Cobleskill is steadily growing in popularity as a chosen institute of study in agriculture and technology among students worldwide. Set in the scenic Schoharie County, New York, SUNY Cobleskill is home to 2,500 students, and with over 50 associate and baccalaureate degrees, the College has plenty to offer budding agri-students.
The educational facilities include an Equine centre, Ski Lodge, Arboretum, Dairy Complex, and the Center for Environmental Science and Technology (CEST), as well as many study halls and classrooms dedicated to the wide spectrum of sustainable environmental studies.
The teaching ethos at SUNY Cobleskill is focused on experiential education, preparing students for a career that combines academic speciality with active citizenship. The College’s mission statement highlights the importance of an industry-aware education, and the merits of its courses: “SUNY Cobleskill’s programs continually evolve to reflect current and emerging knowledge and infuse new technologies into students’ academic experiences.”
Fully-accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), this University overlooks the famous Mississippi River in Louisiana. SUAM is a historically black University dating from its origins in the 1870’s, but has since become increasingly popular among international students.
The College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences is one of the University’s eight faculties, with courses structured around human activity impacting the environment, exploring food production techniques, nutrition, natural resources sciences and agricultural sciences.
SUAM’s facilities include 385-acres of research station for livestock science, agronomic crops, and the Ashford O. Williams Hall which houses more than 20 laboratories.
This University has a strong focus on community in its tripartite mission statement of teaching, research and public service. This three-fold ethos extends to its contributions to sustainable agriculture, through which SUAM students can involve themselves in the agri-community within Louisiana, a state with a rich agricultural history.
UMES is gaining acclaim for its industry-centred courses in agriculture and natural studies. UMES has four main schools, but the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences stands out for its concentrated and diversified course content on sustainable practices.
Currently offered by the Faculty is a varied program of courses at the Graduate, Masters (M.S) and doctoral levels (Ph.D.), all of which span subjects like marine estuarine environmental sciences, animal management, plant breeding and biotechnology, and agricultural sciences.
This Faculty is split into three smaller departments: Agriculture, Food & Resource Sciences, Human Ecology, and Natural Sciences, and the educational facilities are numerous and generously spread about the 1,100-acre campus, including the Center for Food Science and Technology and the Agriculture Experiment Station, built with the purpose of producing “graduates who are leaders in and contribute to their communities, the nation, and the world”.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International