Agriculture – Top 20 Most Useless Degrees?


Last week I received a link to a story from The Daily Beast, an aggregator news website affiliated with Newsweek. The headline was “20 Most Useless Degrees” and wouldn’t you know it Horticulture (No.2), Agriculture (No.3), Nutrition (No.10), and Animal Science (No.20) made the list. The website laid claim that the first two degree fields would be needing 1.74% and 0.88% fewer jobs in the next 10 years, and an increased need of 9.24% and 13.15% for the second two. Probably not far off, but why would a degree be “useless” if the related field of work is stable or growing? Now before you go and dismiss this web story as another on of those false headline makers, hold on. I believe I have a (somewhat) valid point behind this.

Agriculture Degree Education College Food Farming

In my work of advocating for Agriculture, food production, and telling my story of life on the ranch, there are always headlines and webstories fueling fear into the minds of consumers about this country’s food system. That fear must be started from a seed. So many headlines that plant that seed of doubt can lead to larger things. So why would we want this seed to ever be planted? I would rather consumers have a seed of truth planted by hearing stories from real farmers first.

The Daily Beast lays claim to 5 million unique monthly views each month. That’s a lot of traffic compared to blog pages like this one from farmers and ranchers. This particular story was shared on Facebook by 6,500+ people. Word gets around. There’s that many people who may have a seed of doubt planted, saying that Agriculture is a dead-end place. Now I’m not sure about you, but I have been taught that Agriculture fields are growing and in demand. Told that Ag companies are looking for more specialists in the fields.

My “useless” Animal Science degree must be the reason for my immense unhappiness, the reason why I am “stuck” doing something I love most in this world – producing beef that ends up on the plates of consumers (like those who write for The Daily Beast none the less). Now I’m sure that some are gonna say this was a wasted effort of reaction to “shock factor” webstory, or maybe some reacted to the Daily Beast story by calling it a pile of bull. Either way, I hope you take a look and understand why it’s important we keep telling the story of food production. There are still many ignorant people out there. Ignorant (lacking awareness) because they have yet to hear the story of food production from real farmers and ranchers. And for the others… Well, in the words of Ron White, “You can’t fix stupid.”

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About Ryan Goodman (981 Articles)
Ryan Goodman lives in Helena, MT and comes from an Arkansas cattle ranching family. Since growing up on a family cow/calf and stocker-calf operation, he has spent the last several years learning about farming systems across the country. A graduate of Oklahoma State, Ryan is currently working on a Master's degree from the University of Tennessee. He works continuously to share his story of ranch life through community outreach and social media, all while encouraging others in agriculture to do the same.

19 Comments on Agriculture – Top 20 Most Useless Degrees?

  1. That so many agricultural related degrees are considered to be “useless” comes as no surprise to me. In sixty years we have gone from over 50% of the population being involved in agriculture to less than 2%. We talk about consumers being out of touch with , but in reality, they are out of touch with life itself.

    Over 80% of people are employed in service industries. They may fix things, clean houses, wash windows, or sit in front of a computer shuffling data for insurance companies. They have no contact with any actual necessities of life. In fact most of what our society considers to be necessary has been invented in the last 50 years. As a result, people are more interested in how to keep entertained rather than how to survive.

    If left to their own devices, the majority of people today could not survive. They don’t have to think about what it takes to survive because the important part of survival is being provided for them. I think it is not only important to educate the consumer about agriculture, but for those of us in agriculture to have the adaptability to use older technology in case of natural disasters.

    Case in point is the fires here in Texas. Nearly everyone is dependent on electricity to pump water as windmills are a thing of the past. With all of the burned power lines ranches not burned were without water because they had become dependent on the technology of electric pumps to provide water. Cell phone coverage was effected in the area because not all of the emergency generators at the towers worked as expected. The list goes on, but I’m sure you get the idea. We get complacent about things being taken care of by other people or technology, and before long those things become “unimportant” to us.

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    • America is so full of generalizations we never move forward as one. Your post, case in point, blasting the people that deliver the services that were invented within the last 50 years as stepping on the services that built the country, hell, built the world.

      I deliver application code for a living. I sit behind a computer all day and make sure things work. I also participate in sustainable farming/ag, support farmers and understand the roots of our society. I know how to survive. There are many like me.

      Everyone makes an assumption on the “majority” of people when they only know their circle of friends.

      Let’s drive America through tolerance, open-mindedness and acceptance. Not everyone wears overalls to work, but we do understand the issue and respond.

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      • Kudos to you for also participating in sustainable farming, but you are in a minority. Most people I have met from any city think their food comes from a factory.. I have met many people who are actually “well educated”, (meaning they have a college degree) but have no clue as to where their food comes from

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  2. Caryl Velisek // May 3, 2011 at 4:23 PM // Reply

    Hey, we can eat Chinese!

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  3. Or how about Pizza! We don’t need ag, food is made in the factory and delivered to out doorstep! )

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    • How do you get ingredients for the pizza? You think a machine just automatically procuces cheese and tomatoes? Cheese comes from cows, vegetables come from the ground. They come from the natural earth/world, not a factory. My teacher has a poster up in her classroom saying “No farms, no food.” That is a very true statement.

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      • John Wright // February 14, 2014 at 8:53 PM //

        The problem is that people today are so removed from farms and ranches that they have no perspective on where their food comes from and think that agriculture does not affect them. If you wear clothes or eat food, you are involved in agriculture.

        Like

  4. Wow,, That is awesome!!

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  5. Our local radio station covered this story, adding insult to injury by calling farmers “a bunch of hicks”. Unfortunately for them, they seemed to forget that a large percentage of their listeners are college students – and East Lansing is home to Michigan State University, where the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is pretty large.

    After about six hours of furious phone calls and facebook messages from the “hicks” that are pursuing those degrees, the radio station apologized on air and made a peace offering by having the two hosts of the radio show spend a day at the MSU farms. After meeting with some of the students at the farms they realized that some of those “hicks” are smarter than them after all.

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  6. No thought went into the Daily Beast’s list. Agriculture has a long history of fewer farmers feeding more people… and there are definitely going to be more people. That’s not useless. That’s productivity.

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    • So much of what a person does in agriculture is totally overlooked. I don’t have a college degree which makes me a really big stupid hick in the eyes of many. Yet my job entails
      doing the following with different degrees of frequency:
      1) Animal behavior specialist
      2) diagnose and treat animals for sickness and lameness including both rectal and vaginal prolapses, cesarean sections on cattle
      3) determining proper amounts of medication based on body weight
      4) Heat detection
      5)artificial insemination
      6) Pregnancy testing
      7) range management (in determining how long to leave cattle on pasture to prevent over use)
      8) Determining feeding amounts based on body weight
      9) Fencing repair and building new fencing (including estimating how much material )
      10) welding (both arc and gas)
      11) basic auto mechanics
      12) carpentry
      13) Plumbing
      I guess maybe they are right…you have to be pretty much of a dumb hick if that is all you can do…and to do it in all kinds of weather. No professionalism or intelligence needed for anything I do.

      Like

  7. Miranda Turk // January 27, 2012 at 11:52 AM // Reply

    THIS IS SUCH BS! Think about it? Agriculture rules the world. If you can’t eat, you starve to death and capitalism means nothing. Ag. is a growing field. While most jobs related to production agriculture have diminished due to technology, more and more fields are opening up. If you work in a grocery store, restaurant, feed lot, feed mill, farm machinery sales, farm machinery production, forestry, Trucker, USDA, FDA, Bakery, or any factory affiliated with the storage or production of food, your involved in AGRICULTURE. How do you think the food gets from the grocery store to your plate? Its a system that we are all involved in on a day to day basis. It goes from the input sector – production sector – manufacturer sector. There are millions of jobs involved in this system alone. Not to mention the rest of the world who are employed because we feed them. WHAT BS IT SHOULD BE THE #1 most important degree!!!!!!!

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  8. Agriculture has its value – for speculators on price fluctuations. On commodities in general, I love it when people complain about the price of ‘whatever’ necessities. I would employ an agriculture major any day.

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  9. I’m very familiar with this point of view. Both my degrees are in Poultry Science which is a relatively small department compared to the business school and engineering programs here at TAMU. But it’s always amusing when we’re able to tell prospective students and their parents that our department is one of the few in the university that can claim 100% job placement to our graduating seniors. Such a declining demand…

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  10. I teach agriculture to high school and junior high students. I have an animal science degree. The first day of class every year I ask 1 question- “can you live 1 day, 24 hours, without agriculture?” If so, prove it.

    I can venture forth to say that I along with millions of other people like to eat food, wear clothing, live in a “home”, drink clean water and breath clean air. _
    Hmmm, last time I checked all of those are related to agriculture.
    _

    Like

  11. hawkdeer@hotmail.com // November 17, 2012 at 2:14 PM // Reply

    Jim Rogers said agriculture was the best investment one could make for the future. The average age of farmers is something fairly older than other occupations. World population is increasing drastically, which means more farmland is required to feed people. Low cost, productive farmland is getting harder to find.

    Like

  12. I agree for what mamacoulter had said, students inmost school must take a degree in Agriculture:
    Because;
    – the price markets are increasing;
    – its easy and affordable.

    I can say that people who are unemployed can do farming in their backyard because this is one solution for the increased markets.

    Like

  13. Julie Dickson // March 26, 2013 at 8:54 AM // Reply

    I am an advocate of locally based and consumed, sustainable agriculture. It is the most important field going forward. And, as we face fossil fuel resource constraints, people with knowledge of how to farm without all the modern inputs will be essential. However, they are not teaching these things in ag universities. They are teaching them at grassroots organizations. So I agree farming will be important, just not in being done in ways developed since the green revolution.

    Like

  14. Amadiume Chiso // March 25, 2014 at 12:04 PM // Reply

    how could one say Agriculture is not important? i so funny because it just that we don get to see the real efficacy of Agriculture. who created agriculture? could you give me an answer? just because you dont perform it or better still industrialization has taken up so much man power and we forget that its because of the agriculture products. Israel is a masterpiece of Agriculture, if only you could check properly how much agriculture add to your countries GDP..

    Like

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