There’s more to agriculture than farming

Across the state, graduates interested in agriculture-based careers are needed.

Purdue Extension offices are looking for people who can promote healthy living and teach others how to use environmental resources like water or wind responsibly. Companies that offer services to farmers are looking for workers to know how to balance budgets and operate a business, as well as have a passion for growing plants or taking care of animals.

The problem is finding students who have the specialized skills to fill those positions, Johnson County Farm Bureau young farmer chairperson David Harrell said.

That’s why a group that focuses on promoting agriculture is offering a program this week that will show local teens the different careers available in farming — ranging from teaching a specific agriculture-based class at a local college to being a food safety inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture — and the training needed to get hired.

Some teens don’t know about the different careers available, and some don’t think about the training they should get in business or accounting in order to help them in those careers, Harrell said.

When he went to college, Harrell majored in agriculture, planning to eventually take over the family farm. But now, Harrell works at the family farm part time and teaches and promotes agriculture to students throughout Johnson County. If he had known where his career would take him, he would have taken some education classes to prepare for the work he does now, he said.

“I took agriculture because it interested me,” Harrell said. “But now, there were classes I should have taken, but I didn’t have a career in mind.”

Harrell’s personal experience led to the creation of the agricultural career roundtable discussion at the fair this year. Parents, grandparents and students are encouraged to come to the event so they can learn more about the types of jobs out there for people who love animals, farming or the business side of agriculture, Harrell said.

One of the key issues they hope to address is to help students who are interested in agriculture find a specific career goal, he said.

With a general agriculture degree, graduates could have fewer job opportunities because other students already will have taken an education or accounting class, making them more well-rounded for their future career, Harrell said.

Indian Creek Middle School seventh-grade student Keegan Sichting is considering a career in farming or ranching but isn’t sure if he wants to be a full-time farmer. His dad is a farmer, and he works with his dad when caring for cows, but Sichting doesn’t know what kind of degree he would want to get if he majored in agriculture.

“I want to go to Purdue University for agriculture,” Sichting said.

“But I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do.”

Other students may love animals but not want to go into agriculture as their career later in life. But officials want them to know about other careers available for those who don’t want to necessarily live on a farm and take care of animals.

Franklin eighth-grader Abby Titara can’t decide between agriculture or archaeology but would like to work with children and educate them about taking care of animals.

“It’s one of my options, but I’m not sure about it yet,” Titara said.

The roundtable discussion would show students what careers are available, and what specialized degrees or certifications a student would need to get those jobs in the future, Harrell said.

Representatives from eight companies will share what positions they have, if internships are available or what students should mention during the interview process with their company.

Students may not realize that an accounting or agriculture business class would help them excel if they go into manufacturing, production or working for a corporation, said Phil Gorrell, the manager of Kokomo Grain’s Edinburgh location.

If students take those courses, it would prepare them for handling any aspect of working for a corporation, instead of only knowing certain skills, such as planting or caring for animals.

Some employees would need to be better-suited with doing physical labor, like working outside with tractors or other large equipment, while other employees are needed at the headquarters to keep the business running.

Multiple jobs, including 4-H directors and health and human science directors, are currently open with the Purdue Extension office, but officials don’t have enough qualified candidates applying for the positions. This event will allow the organization to get the word out on what college graduates could apply for, said agriculture and natural resources educator Sarah Hanson.

Wednesday's fair schedule

Wednesday, July 22

10 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m.: Read – Touch – Taste, Children ages 5 to 7, Heritage Hall

5 p.m.: Midway opens

5 to 8 p.m.: Cooking Demonstrations, Farm Bureau Building

6:30 to 10 p.m.: Gospel Music in the “A” Tent, north of Scott Hall

7 p.m.: Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest, Kids ages 5 to 10. Farm Bureau back lot

7 and 8:30 p.m.: Cook & Belle Concert, Concert Stage

7 p.m.: ATV/Truck Flat Drags, Grandstands

7 p.m.: Horseshoe Pitching, west of the Fair Office

7 p.m.: Close Poor Jack Amusements, Moonlight madness on the midway ($20 Unlimited Rides)

9 p.m.: Entry Deadline for Baby Contest, Fair Office

If you go

What: Agriculture career roundtable

When: 4 p.m. Thursday

Where: Farm Bureau building, Johnson County fairgrounds