With changing technology, lifestyles and business in general, careers in agriculture span far and wide. Opportunities in the industry could as easily lead one to the city as to a pasture. Here are four examples of ag-related jobs that are not “on the farm.”
At first glance, it might seem that Joe Mallard’s job with Southern AgCredit would keep him firmly planted indoors. But look a little deeper, and you’re just as likely to see Mallard out crunching dirt with a row crop farmer as crunching numbers at an office desk. He’s senior development officer at the lending company’s corporate office in Ridgeland, but Mallard’s role has him out where agriculture is happening. “Our mission is to improve the well-being and health of agriculture,” Mallard says of Southern AgCredit. “Part of my job is being out on the farm with someone, whether it be a row crop farmer in the Delta, on a timber farm in central Mississippi or on a poultry farm in south Mississippi. “We interact with a real, live producer, and get to be an expert in the finance part of it. We get to know their business model and their family.” Mallard grew up in the timber industry, and he majored in forestry and received his masters in agribusiness at Mississippi State University. “It was sort of a natural step to get into ag lending,” he says.
For someone who didn’t grow up on a farm or have any kind of agriculture background before college, Rebecca Turner sure lends a strong voice for Mississippi’s agribusiness. As nutrition affairs program manager for the Southeast Dairy Association since 2011, Turner’s enthusiastic advocacy for the industry goes beyond milking cows. “I really got my feet wet with the vastness of agriculture in Mississippi once I started working on behalf of dairy farmers and learning more about not only that industry, but just the ag industry within the state as a whole,” says Turner, who received her bachelor’s in nutrition and a master’s in nutrition and food systems from the University of Southern Mississippi. She calls her association with dairy farmers and others in agriculture “a good day in the office,” and is happy to spread the word about the industry. “We have an abundant agricultural industry that’s ripe for the picking for Mississippians says. “As a dietitian, it excites me that I get to advocate for them and also educate the public. That’s a very pleasurable part of my job.”
Russell Cauthen was in high school when he knew precisely what he wanted to do for a living. Now a key account manager in the Mississippi office for AgDNA, Inc., a global record-keeping and data management platform for the agriculture industry, Cauthen developed his vocation when he did precision agriculture-related work as a senior in high school. He had been helping his dad, a crop consultant, when he was approached by a NASA subsidiary about assisting with research in remote sensing and aerial technology. “They were based in Bay St. Louis,” Cauthen says. “They asked me if I would be willing to be their local guy on the farm, so they wouldn’t have to make the trip [inland] every week. I took them up on that offer, and that’s how I got into remote sensing.” Cauthen has been in the ag technology field ever since and believes it’s a promising career. “There is a lot of need and want for a precision ag specialist,” he says. “There are many, many of those jobs opening up.”
Her title is a mouthful – state statistician at the USDA/National Agriculture Statistics Service/ Mississippi field office. But the way Esmerelda Dickson sees it, her career choice has been nothing but simple in how rewarding it’s been. “Pursuing a career in agriculture is one of my greatest and most rewarding life choices,” Dickson says. “I cherish the opportunities I have gained from working with USDA. What a joy!” Dickson, in the Jackson office since 2013, has been an agricultural statistician with the USDA since 2003. She started her ag-related career in Michigan, with stops in Texas and Washington, D.C., before coming to Mississippi. She’s in charge of collecting data on Mississippi agriculture for the USDA, which involves interacting with a variety of people. “I meet with all the stakeholders, whether it’s industry, universities or the farmers with any ag-related concerns,” Dickson says. Though Dickson didn’t have an agricultural background growing up, she participated in a summer ag program right after high school that ultimately led to a college scholarship. “The summer program inspired me to become an ag economist,” she says. “Having an agriculture background is a great asset with this job; however, having mathematical and statistical knowledge is a requirement.”