Food and Sustainable Agriculture Jobs
The agricultural industry in America has drastically changed over the past few decades. The overuse, and misuse, of mechanization, chemicals, and technology has led to many negative effects on farm land and the farming industry.
Among these are, topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination, high costs of production, and the disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities (Information taken from a UC Davis report).
Today, a revolution of sorts has taken place in the farming industry. Sustainable agriculture has gained increased support from universities and state and local governments. Sustainable agriculture is not only a benefit to the environment, but also to local communities, farm owners, and consumers.
There are three main goals of sustainable agriculture:
- environmental health
- economic profitability
- social and economic equity
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. Therefore, attention to natural resources is of prime importance in order to maintain the supply for the future (www.sustainableagriculture.net).
Plant Scientists specialize in agronomy, which is a branch of science that deals with the production of field crops. Agronomists and crop scientists help farmers develop better and “greener” ways to produce crops while preserving our natural resources. In addition to this, they also work on making better seeds and, since DDT was found to be extremely harmful to the environment, better methods of insect control.
Soil Scientists study what is in soils. They help farmers make the best use of their land, and they study ways to improve farming through uses of new machinery, farming techniques, and fertilizers. They also study what damages soil, and they develop ways to combat that damage.
Animal science encompasses many areas of the life sciences, ultimately focused on promoting the efficiency and stability of the livestock industry. They develop methods for farmers that promote livestock health and production. They also study the health and diseases of livestock, sometimes performing veterinary work.
Environmental horticulture, one of the fastest growing industries in America (Santa Rosa Junior College), is defined as the science of cultivating plants for human and environmental benefit.
The science of horticulture field is present in a wide range of areas, including landscaping, farming, urban planning, parks development, and clinical research.
Organic farming practices alternative technologies for farming to maintain soil productivity and to protect and conserve the environment. Organic farming strictly prohibits or limits the use synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides.
In the organic farming field individuals can begin their careers as laborers, assisting in the daily activities of the farm.
Individuals with degrees in an environmental or agricultural science can take on managerial positions and farm ownership.
Biotechnology is defined as the industrial use of living organisms (or parts of living organisms) to produce foods, drugs, or other products (www.biotechmedia.com)
Green biotechnology (also known as plant biotechnology) is a rapidly growing field within modern biotechnology. It involves studies to improve the production and output of crops. Green biotechnology incorporates the use of environment friendly alternatives, such as bio fuels, bio fertilizers and bio pesticides, erasing the use of harmful substances that results in enhanced crop output, improvement in health and safety standards. (www.123biotech.com)
Agricultural Science Education
At many universities, students pursuing a degree in agricultural science will study other major fields of environmental science such as biology, biotechnology, plant and animal physiology, biochemistry, crop science, soil and water science, and horticulture, as well as relevant business courses.
A bachelor’s degree in agricultural science is all that is needed for some jobs, but those who have a master’s or a Ph.D. degree will have the best chances of getting a higher level research position.
Top University Programs
- Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
- UC Davis, College of Agricultural & Environmental Science
- UC Santa Cruz, Department of Environmental Studies
- Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
- UC Riverside, College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
- University of Illinois, Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program
- Iowa State University, Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture
- Iowa State University, Organic Agriculture Program, Agronomy and Horticulture
- Louisiana State University, Dept. of Agronomy & Environmental Management
- University of Maine, Academic Programs (Natural Sciences, Forestry & Agriculture)
- Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington
- Washington State University, Dept. of Crop Sciences
- Washington State University, Dept. of Soil Sciences
- University of Wyoming, Agroecology Program
Professional Agricultural Jobs Outlook
According to statistics provided by the U.S Department of Agriculture, current production and market indicators suggest that the sustainable agriculture industry will continue to experience substantial growth. Now that organic food has a nationally recognized consumer base and staunch backing by the USDA, organic food has become legitimized in America as sales steadily climb
And, because the demand for food will never decrease (especially since the population is continually growing), employment of agricultural and food scientists will stay fairly stable during difficult economic times.
Sustainable Agriculture Careers
With such a rapidly growing job market in Sustainable Agriculture, there are multiple areas besides the sciences that offer interesting employment options such as farm management, marketing and sales, compliance, finance, and land surveying and appraisal. Careers in Agricultural Science are found in public agencies, private companies, academic institutions, and nonprofit agencies.
The average salary of agricultural scientists falls in between $40,000 and $70,000. Experience and managements positions can bring higher salaries.
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
- National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
- Organic Agriculture
- Organic Farming Research Foundation