Many of my friends from college have graduated and returned to help run the family farm. When I was younger, more naïve, and more disconnected from agriculture, I often wondered why these people were spending so much money to get a degree to immediately return to their roots. Why waste so much time and effort when you know where your career was going to start and end? Well, the answer to this question has become clearer as I have learned to understand the value in a college education and how it helps add knowledge and life-long tools to make farm operations more profitable and efficient.
Almost any type of farm operation in today’s world has a major that can offer significant value into the inputs of the industry. There are Dairy Science, Crop and Soil Science, Agribusiness Management, Agricultural Economics, Agriculture Technology, Animal Sciences, and many other individual classes that can help almost any farmer out there become more educated on the processes that go into their operations back home. There are reproduction and nutrition classes that help students better understand how the process of breeding and genetics work and how the animal’s diet can be altered to ensure you gain the maximum dollar amount your animals are sold to slaughter. There are also soil and crop science classes that help the student to better understand how to cultivate crops at their maximum yields while using the maximum inputs from fertilizer to the soil itself.
Related: The ultimate Agricultural College Guide
I am convinced the industry is better off with school-educated individuals contributing to production. If it was not for the commodity group I joined in college, I would never have understood exactly all the factors that go into the grain markets. It was truly amazing to come to understand exactly what goes into pricing farmer grain. There are so many different ways to help minimize their risk. Options can help offset potentially devastating losses to farmers if the markets were to tank. If it was not for the class I took on futures and the commodity trading group I was in, I would have never learned the different strategies to offer the producers I was buying grain from. Many of them were truly grateful that I had their best interest at heart. Many of them did not even know they could use these options!
Several of my friends have said how grateful they are to be able to bring the knowledge they learned home with them. It has allowed them to develop new steps and practices that have evolved with the changing times. Excel documents have made it easier for them to track financial numbers and target the most important areas of their business. Soil and crop classes have helped several row crop farmers understand what it takes to produce the best yielding crop year over year. Marketing classes have also helped them be aware of the commodity markets and how they can market their animals, crops, and milk to achieve maximum income to continue to grow and expand.
At the end of the day there will be two sides of every opinion on whether a college degree is needed to run the farm. Those that disagree will say they have been doing this for generations and they are still operating without issue. Those that agree will say that their degrees have allowed them to adapt and change to fully maximize their operations. For me I am certain that there is a ton of value in going to college and coming home to farm. Without it you may never know what could become of your farming operation — maybe it will lead to something beyond your wildest dreams. The one thing that is for certain is that an education never hurt anyone. So get out there and expose yourself with an open mind, you never know what it will lead you to.