I grow up in a town in Minnesota. Located just an hour north of the Twin Cities, finding groceries was never a difficult task. But, unlike many of my peers, I was more interested in how those shelves were filled than what was on them.
Agriculture sparked my interest when I was about 5 years old; when we would visit my great-uncle and my cousins and I would play in the hay loft and ‘moo’ at the cattle. But I didn’t grow up on a farm, what the heck was I doing finding the subject attractive!? To be honest, I didn’t have an answer.
Fast forward to college; I was accepted to North Dakota State University. My major was
nursing, psychology, social work, economics, agriculture economics, which was odd for a someone who didn’t have 17+ years experience being around the ‘agriculture’ part of the degree. I graduated with my Bachelors in December 2016. I learned a lot in those 4 years about my major, but I learned more about how agriculture is so exclusive. Here is a couple:
If you weren’t raised on a farm… good luck
Really, you will work harder, just to show you have a grasp on anything. Like I mentioned earlier, people I went to school with already knew the different type of crops and their nutrient requirements before the first day of class. They knew cows have 4 stomachs and are called ruminates, not because of a late night ‘fun fact’ Tumblr search, but because of their years of knowledge. Ask them to ‘cite their source’ the next time they tell you what the difference between a monocot and a dicot are; they simply can’t! It’s not their fault, they are blessed to be raised in the industry they evidentially will enter. But, not being part of FFA in high school, limits the connections you have going into college in your degree. Connections should not be under sold! They are a HUGE part of agriculture and carry a lot of weight if you have the right ones.
Get ready for some rejection
The first thing I put on my resume is job experience. First thing employers look for when I hand them my resume; Family farm. It’s not there guys, sorry. Granted, I know I wouldn’t get a call from EVERY place I applied to. But not hearing back from 147 (I counted) places, you wonder what you’re missing? If only they could hear how passionate I am if only they would allow me to ramble on about how interesting econometrics is and how applying it to crop production would significantly impact the stability of a growing season (#nerdlife). But alas, they do not. It gets frustrating, but that is where those connections come in. Take classes and talk to professors, join an agriculture club, attend local agricultural fairs and read up on the speakers, whatever you do; make connections! Even if it’s one of your professors, name drop like it’s going out of style when talking to a potential employer especially if they are alumni.
Embrace Not Knowing
Most the time, people are welcoming to tell you about their profession. Agriculture is huge! From farmers to ranchers to the crop insurance guy, everyone functions together. When given the opportunity, I seek out growers in areas I’m not familiar with. Not knowing information can create conversations both parties can benefit from. I mention the word Embrace on purpose. If you have never raised cows, don’t assume antibiotics are “bad” (that is a WHOLE different post)**. Ask. Talk to the rancher about caring for their animals, how it differs between animals, and how they can both care for an animal and be cost effective. You will be amazed how open a lot of people are to talk about something they love.
All in all, it’s not easy being an outsider of a club you REALLY want to be part of. Not being raised on a farm should not discourage you to pursue agriculture. But understand, you are going to be at a big disadvantage. The disadvantage may even mean a lot of rejection from to-be employers. That’s why you have to work! Get those connections, ask the ‘dumb’ questions, and really be humble about not knowing things not found in a textbook.
As always, be kind.