While it might not rank up there with winning the lottery, the feeling of vindication has its merits. I find it quite satisfying to being able to say, “I told you so,” especially when the context is of a positive note.
It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I wrote about a Yahoo! Education piece that labeled a college degree in agriculture as “useless.” In fact, the study in which the blog’s entry was based on bookended agriculture and horticulture as the No. 1 and No. 5 ranked “useless” college degrees respectively. Though the reasons the study used to base its rankings appeared biased, and the article’s content read as overblown and sensationalized, my concern — at the time — was headlines flashing that kind of message to impressionable eyes would jeopardize the very future of farming.
Fast forward to a year later, and the story is much different. According to recent statistics, more than 146,000 college students across the U.S. are pursuing a degree in agriculture. This represents a 21% increase in enrollment since 2006. This is fantastic news, and reassuring in many ways.
Fountains Of Youth
So, what do these young up-and-comers know that others don’t? Well, they’re not swayed by slanted media — luckily. Also, they obviously are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They’re up for a challenge and bring a fresh take on how to best deal with issues that might get in the way of not only growing produce for profit, but also feeding an exponentially growing global population.
Matt Parke of Parkesdale Farms is a fourth-generation strawberry grower. He and his family have been witness to plenty of ups and downs over the years. While some of the obstacles to success are the same as his predecessors, there are some unique to today. Current production and regulation hurdles aside, new-found priorities like social media marketing have to be accounted for, too.
In addition to being ambitious, today’s growers of tomorrow are smart. The economy has been dreadful for years. Once eager college grads ready to make their mark on the world soon turn into overqualified homebodies hungry for their undergrad days after they get their first taste of job hunting. Occurrences such as this, which are the rule nowadays as opposed to the exception, are hard to keep secret. Word spreads around campus, and more students contemplate ways to extend his or her collegiate stay into the “six-year” plan — much to parents’ chagrin. It’s a domino effect. Soon chaos breaks out and we end up facing some kind of “cliff.”
Luckily, there are jobs out there. And lo and behold, the best prospects appear to be down on the farm. Given USDA’s favorable forecast for workforce demand in ag-related fields, I guess those “useless” degrees will be coming in handy. So, in this case, I’m very happy to say to the naysayers out there, “I told you so.” To readers here, I’m just preaching to the choir.