College students interested in ag studies have several options

FERRUM—As Virginia college students gear up for graduation season, agriculture and natural resources majors have reasonably good job prospects. And the next wave of ag majors have both public- and private-college options.

“Agriculture is the most progressive, the most economically diverse field that you could potentially get into,” said Dr. Tim Durham, Ferrum College assistant professor of agronomy. “Just the sheer amount of job opportunities is staggering. You could work for yourself as a sole proprietor. You could work in a partnership. You could work for an LLC. You could work for a huge agricultural conglomerate. I mean, really, the choices are unlimited.

“If you have an interest in animal science in genetics, if you have an interest in plant breeding of a specific species, those job opportunities are definitely out there and they are hiring. And it’s only expected to increase.”

Thanks to the Morrill Act of 1862, every state in the nation has at least one college with resources dedicated to the study of agriculture. Virginia has two public universities with ag schools, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech. And Ferrum, a private institution, offers four-year degrees in agronomy, agribusiness, animal science and horticulture.

“I’ve learned incredible amounts of things that I’ve been able to take back to my farm and actually teach the people that work on my farm,” said Jonathan Mayo, a Ferrum College animal science student. “I really encourage people to go and get an agricultural education and be able to inform consumers” about modern agriculture and its benefits, he said.

With a field as diverse as agriculture, Ferrum has worked to carve out a niche for its students, Durham said.

“Especially when you’re talking about organic production. Or perhaps agro-ecology, which is the fusion of the ecological sciences and agricultural systems all rolled into one. I think that’s really going to be our defining niche in the coming 10 to 15 years,” he said. “These are just options that you don’t necessarily find at some larger institutions.”

Media: Contact Durham at 540-365-6948.

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