Field Research: Innovative careers in agriculture

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When people hear the word “agriculture,” most usually think of jobs directly connected to farming. But the field of agriculture today offers more than 200 different, innovative career options.

“Skyrocketing consumer demand for local and regional food is an economic opportunity for America’s farmers and ranchers,” says United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

State Fair Community College offers four Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees in Agriculture and two Professional Certificates to satisfy the interests of students and meet the needs of industry.

Brad Driskill, program coordinator and instructor, said many students want classes in agronomy (the science of soil management and crop production) so they can put their skills and knowledge to use on the family farm. Others are interested in careers in agribusiness, animal science, horticulture, or teaching ag education.

“We offer great programs with excellent instructors who bring an enormous wealth of knowledge to the classroom,” he says. “Students are eager to learn and participate. Our graduates will have a huge range of job opportunities that offer specialization, independence and good wages.”

AAS in Agriculture with Emphasis in Agronomy (new for fall 2014)

As the world population approaches 9 billion, agronomists will be responsible for increasing food production on fewer acres while ensuring resources will be available for future generations. Employment opportunities include crop and seed production, fertilizer sales and application, pest and weed control, seed sales, crop scouting, seed analysts, and soil science. It includes an occupational internship.

Adjunct instructor Kevin Gnuschke teaches several agronomy courses; he has 30 years of experience teaching high school agriculture.

AAS in Agriculture with Emphasis in Animal Science
(new for fall 2014)

SFCC’s new Animal Science program is designed for students pursuing a career in livestock production. It focuses on all species of livestock and teaches the whole range of livestock production, including basic animal science, livestock management, nutrition, biology, breeding, reproduction, and business.

“Graduates with this degree have lots of career choices,” says instructor Kerri Bates. “You can work with veterinarians, with livestock on the family farm, in livestock sales, feed sales, marketing, and many other options.”

AAS in Agriculture with Emphasis in Horticulture 

Plants are important to our everyday life, from the fruits and vegetables we eat and the trees and flowers that brighten our parks, gardens and homes to the turf on our lawns and sports fields.

The diversity of the horticulture industry creates many career choices, like landscape design, installation and maintenance; commercial greenhouse production or sales; garden center and nursery management or sales; fruit and vegetable production or sales; turf grass production, installation and maintenance; and pest management.

Adjunct instructor Kim Rimel teaches horticulture classes and manages SFCC’s fully equipped greenhouse, which provides great hands-on training. Students learn landscape and grounds-keeping skills, plus everything from cultivation to management decisions about the type and quantity of plants to grow; hiring; keeping records; and marketing.

“Kim owns her own business,” says Driskill. “Students who get to work with her learn from someone who works in the industry and knows the industry. She does an excellent job.”

AAS in Agriculture

This program provides a great foundation for a range of ag-related careers, whether students want to work on the family farm or pursue a job in agribusiness. By combining instruction with an internship, students learn the rudiments of agriculture plus marketing, accounting, economics, and public relations skills.

SFCC also offers a Professional Certificate in Agronomy, which focuses on the skills required for certification by The American Society of Agronomy and The Missouri Certified Crop Adviser Board, and a Professional Certificate in Agricultural Business, designed to provide business skills specific to agriculture.

Associate of Arts (AA) 

“This is also a fantastic time for students interested in teaching agriculture,” says Driskill. “A lot of high school ag teachers are reaching retirement age, a trend that’s expected to continue for several years. You can earn your AA degree with a concentration in Agriculture at SFCC, and then get your bachelor’s degree in ag education at Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University or the University of Missouri-Columbia.”

SFCC has an active Ag Club, and members also participate in the national Post-Secondary Agriculture Students Organization (PAS). Students attend conferences and compete at state and national levels.

For more information about SFCC’s agriculture programs, contact
Driskill at (660) 596-7238 or [email protected] or Bates at (660) 596-7239 or [email protected]

Agriculture Scholarships 

The Ewing Scholarship Trust funds traditional scholarships up to $750 per semester, as well as fellowships that provide opportunities for practical experience and pay up to $5,240 annually for up to six recipients. Recipients must be enrolled in one of SFCC’s agriculture programs and live in Benton, Camden, Carroll, Cooper, Henry, Johnson, Miller, Morgan, Pettis, or Saline counties.

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