Endless opportunities in agriculture make for diverse workforce
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I can remember being asked that question while sitting on a rug in elementary school. We had just finished reading a book about firemen, so naturally, all of the kids in the classroom excitedly said they were going to become firefighters. Of course, as our class grew older, our perspectives of the world changed. There were career opportunities we did not even know existed back when reading about heroic firefighters.
Growing up on one of the 96 percent of Wisconsin dairy farms that are family owned, our gravel driveway showcased several jobs in Wisconsin agriculture. Our veterinarian would visit at least once a month for herd health. The milkman came every other day to haul our milk to one of Wisconsin’s nearly 150 cheese manufacturing plants. The local feed store delivered rations for our livestock and discussed animal nutritional needs.
It is not surprising to see so many careers pull into one driveway. About one in nine jobs in Wisconsin is related to agriculture. Each of those jobs supports a nearly additional 1.5 jobs
elsewhere in the state. Of the nearly 413,500 agricultural jobs in the state of Wisconsin, on-farm production contributes 153,900, and processing contributes 259,600 jobs.
The diversity of Wisconsin’s agriculture industry is its greatest strength. As farmers and processors continue to become more productive, the diversity of jobs in Wisconsin agriculture will also continue to grow. The industry needs engineers, software developers, technicians and more who can adapt to and help create more effective ways of producing food, fuel and fiber for the world.
Agriculture careers support many industries that include farm production, agriculture management and marketing, food science, urban planning, and energy. Wisconsin colleges are rising to the challenge by offering new, innovative programs. For instance, Wisconsin Technical Colleges offer more than 50 programs in agriculture-related fields.
With less than 2 percent of the nation actively involved in agriculture, the number of youth who see career opportunities pull into their driveway is dwindling. However, the demand for agricultural products rises as the world’s population continues to grow. Agriculture is looking for the next generation to come forward and be part of the almost endless careers available.
As members of the agriculture community, it is our responsibility to showcase the opportunities in agriculture for those who have not witnessed the industry firsthand. If they are not inspired by reading a book about farmers in elementary school, perhaps they will be inspired by visiting agribusinesses across the state, seeing the technology in action, and meeting the industry leaders who make Wisconsin agriculture $88.3 billion strong.
Those in the working world are probably not asked what they would like to be when they grow older. However, we should be asking ourselves what we would like the agriculture industry to be as we grow in it and seek those who can keep Wisconsin agriculture moving forward.
Kaitlyn Riley is the 71st Alice in Dairyland