agriculture industry

Group of gardeners tending to organic crops at community garden and picking up a basket full of fresh produce from their small business. Photo: iStock.com/julief514

For a curious student with a hard work ethic, the agriculture industry has boundless career possibilities that may have never crossed their mind. Students who enjoy biochemistry may have overlooked a career in agronomy or biofuels. The mechanically minded may be pleasantly surprised by a career as an agriculture engineer or precision agriculture specialist. Writers and photographers may find fitting opportunities as agricultural journalists.

The agriculture industry offers more than 250 career options in the areas of food, fiber and fuel, according to agcareers.com. Recruiters say that almost anyone’s passions and interests can align with a career in agriculture, Missouri’s No. 1 industry.

“When I’m talking to high school students about agriculture careers, a lot of them think tractors,” says Matthew Arri, career services coordinator for the College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources at the University of Missouri. “Agriculture is much broader than students think.”

Possible job titles include food scientist, dietitian, livestock nutritionist, economist, conservation planner, extension and outreach specialist, commodity trader, teacher, and much more. Surprising to most, these careers require no farm background.

“A lot of people think they wouldn’t be a fit if they didn’t grow up in the agriculture industry,” says Jessica Kueffer, recruitment and employee development manager for MFA Incorporated, a regional farm supply and marketing cooperative. “It may be helpful to grow up in the agriculture industry, but we also appreciate those who take a big interest in the industry and who want to serve farmers. The hard skills and industry knowledge are teachable. In fact, we have a lot of folks who come on board because they agree with the mission, vision and values our company stands for – not because they grew up on the family farm.”

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MFA Incorporated employs nearly 1,700 people who serve more than 45,000 farmer owners in Missouri and adjacent states. Employees have achieved education levels ranging from a high school diploma to a Ph.D. and serve the cooperative’s patrons as veterinarians, truck drivers, bookkeepers, managers, salespeople, agronomists, feed nutritionists, finance professionals, communications specialists and more.

Arri predicts steady demand for agricultural jobs in the future, largely in response to feeding the world’s growing population. MFA Incorporated routinely carries a balance of about 60 to 70 open positions, from entry-level employment to management. Kueffer expects that trend in job demand to continue.

“I try to help students understand that agriculture supports food, fiber and fuel – a need that is never going away,” Kueffer says. “Having the stability of working inside an industry that always has a need for top talent is promising.”