City Kids Find Good Fit in Agriculture06/01/2018
With tens of thousands of unfilled jobs in agriculture nationwide, the field presents plenty of opportunities for young people. That fact is attracting a growing number of students who aren’t from farm backgrounds to the field, including some recent graduates at North Dakota State University.
David Buchanan, the associate dean of NDSU’s College of Ag, says about 30 percent of their students come from non-ag backgrounds.
Rachel Ouren grew up in the city, in Monument, Colo., but her heart always has been on her grandparents’ farm near Fergus Falls, Minn. She has spent some time there over the years. But still, her parents were surprised when she said she wanted to study animal science at NDSU.
“But I didn’t know if I could do it without the experience and background that I know most of my peers would have. I took the intro to animal science class and I fell in love,” she says.
Ouren is interested in working with cattle but doesn’t know yet where that will take her.
“I have gotten a lot of comments like oh, you’re just a little girl, how are you going to stand up to a big cow?” she says.
Michael Duncan grew up in the Twin Cities suburb of Woodbury, Minn., and has no farm background. But he’s always loved spending time on a friend’s farm, as well as hunting and fishing. So, he discovered a career in ag might be the perfect fit. “Knowing that I really wanted to be outdoors and couldn’t live my life in a cubicle so much is kind of what drew me to ag,” he says.
Duncan says his parents were supportive from the start, but some of his friends were surprised.
“‘So you want to be a farmer?’ I’m like, ‘No I want to help farmers, I want to help advise them on their farms, make decisions on their farms.’ And so they kind of got it, but not everybody gets it,” he says.
Duncan already has a job at Winfield United waiting for him after graduation.
“I had no idea, the amount of opportunities and the amount of jobs and everything in agriculture,” he says.
Like Duncan, Amy Greenberg grew up in a Twin Cities suburb. Though Greenberg was raised in Eagan, Minn., her mom grew up on a farm and was surprised by her daughter’s interest in agriculture.”I get a lot of ‘Why are you interested in that?'” she says.
Greenberg says she felt intimidated at first, being surrounded by students who grew up on farms.
“My beginning classes, I had no idea what was going on. We were covering really basic things,” she says. “I still remember my first crop internship. I was worried to know which field I was going to, whether it was soybean or corn, because I couldn’t even tell the difference right away.”
After graduation, Greenberg will go to Liberia, Africa, for a year to teach farmers there. She’s come a long way from those early days, with a little help from Google.
“I have actually a whole page of notes in my notebook of just little terms that I write down in class, and I will either ask someone in confidence later that I know won’t make fun of me, or I can just Google it,” she says.