Young professionals across Nebraska are proving you don’t have to come from a farm to pursue a career in agriculture. In fact, the diverse and ever-changing agriculture industry is attracting more and more individuals who are science, math and technology minded.
“A student does not need to come from a rural background to obtain a degree in agriculture and natural resources. We are looking for students who want to change the world and be a part of finding the solution,” says Dr. Ronnie Green, vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. “The frontiers of technology and science are opening up completely new avenues and approaches for us to think about how we maximize our efficiency in agriculture, while employing less land, natural resources and external inputs.”
Projections are that by 2050, there will be 2.5 billion more people in the world than today, requiring current food production rates to nearly double.
“Today’s students will be at the peak of their professional careers in 2050, and they will be the ones responsible for fulfilling that increased demand,” Green says. “Without a doubt, we need to attract the very best thinkers and doers to our industry. Instead of the medical, engineering, finance and law sectors having ruled the roost of professional careers during the baby boomer generation, this next era will also be ruled by the food and food system engineers, broadly speaking.”
Job opportunities for agriculture graduates are endless and diverse, including opportunities both on and off the farm. Kristin Beede graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in animal science and in 2013 with a Master’s degree in animal science. She now works as a laboratory technician at GeneSeek, a subsidiary of Neogen and one of the largest animal genotyping companies in the world.
“I took a job in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory on campus, and it was working there and for an animal science professor that I learned I really enjoy doing laboratory work,” Beede says. “We have cutting-edge technology to be able to inform clients of genetic traits of their livestock or domestic animals. We aid in the herd screening of a number of different diseases that impact the beef and pork industries.”
Beede says it’s rewarding to work in agriculture because the industry is comprised of many different people working together to create healthy products that positively impact the world.
“It’s rewarding when I am able to help someone be more informed about their operation, whether that is finding a disease they do not know is on their farm and being part of stopping what would have been a large outbreak or informing producers of recessive traits that may be passed to offspring if not tested for by our lab,” she says.
Austin Zimmerman also graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 2013 with a degree in agriculture engineering. He now works as a design engineer for Grain Systems Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of grain storage bins, silos and tanks.
“In a typical day, I run through grain bin requests that customers from all over the world are looking to buy. Then I check to see if they will need special structural engineering for the location that bin is going, and if so, I structure it heavy enough to withstand conditions at that location,” Zimmerman explains. “After that I add accessories or components the customer wants and quote the price. I quote several bins a day, and no two are ever the same, so that is part of the fun of this job.”
Ryan Clausen graduated from Northeast Community College in 2011 with an ag transfer degree before attending the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, where he received a degree in agronomy in 2013. One week after graduating, Clausen began working as a claims adjuster for ADM Crop Risk Services, a crop insurance company he had interned for during college.
“I love working outside with farmers and their crops,” Clausen says. “There are tons of opportunities in agriculture, and you don’t have to work on a farm. You could do marketing, sales or crop insurance like I do.”
Zimmerman enjoys agriculture because “it affects the entire world.”
“Agriculture is vital to every person in your family, community and our world, even though many don’t realize it,” he says. “I enjoy making the lives of farmers easier, even if that just means designing equipment that is more reliable and safer, because they are the same farmers who provide food for my table.”