Monday, December 7, 2009

More Studying Ag

December 5, 2009
Delaware education: The new hot major? Agriculture Program offers diverse job opportunities for grads
The News Journal

Kishana Williamson loves dolphins and, strangely enough, the marine mammals are the reason the University of Delaware senior spends her days studying chickens.

Williamson expected to study marine science in college. But once she got there, she realized that "marine science was more about the ocean than the animals." The programs that best fit her interests were animal science and wildlife conservation, both of which are part of the school's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

"When I got into college, I had no idea I'd end up in agriculture," said Williamson, 21, who is working on research related to avian influenza and other diseases that can be passed from animals to humans and vice versa. "When I got here I was like 'Ag? No wait. ...' "

In Delaware and across the country, enrollments in agriculture schools are on the rise. Nationally, enrollment in bachelor's degree programs in agriculture jumped 21.8 percent between 2005 and 2008, from about 58,300 students to nearly 71,000, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Many of the students have stories similar to Williamson's. She grew up in the decidedly nonrural New York City suburb of Teaneck, N.J., and, although she and fellow agriculture students spend class and research time on the school's working farm, she has no plans to become a farmer.

Students are drawn to agriculture school by an interest in science, but many are drawn to the fact that, even in this economy, companies working on such things as developing renewable fuels from organic material are still hiring. Read More

It’s fun and exciting to see how many young people get excited about agriculture when they finally realize that it’s more than Old MacDonald’s Farm. Many people have never thought to themselves that their very survival is dependent on agriculture. Humankind’s biggest challenge moving forward is trying to figure out how to feed everyone. We are going to need the best and brightest we have to offer working on the solutions if we want to be successful.

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