Editorial: Agriculture’s relevance keeps growing

Editorial Board

Think back five, 10 or (if you can) 20 years ago. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences here at Iowa State was not nearly as large as it is today and what’s more, the idea of agriculture itself was not nearly as popular or relevant.

In years past, agriculture hardly has been something seen as “cool” by mainstream culture. Even here in Iowa, a national center of crop supply, farming was treated irreverently. The “cool” jobs, as we thought of when we were younger, were those that put an individual in a position of either extreme danger or wealth. Saving lives was cool. Making money was cool. But, more often than not, agriculture wasn’t.

However, more and more are recognizing how important and lucrative a career in agriculture can be. This is evidenced by the swelling number of agriculture students, who have yet again broken the enrollment record this year.

If you think about it, there is no other field of study that affects more people. All professions provide some sort of product or service. In agriculture’s case, it’s one of the most important: food. After all, each one of the 7 billion-plus people on Earth has to eat.

The ever-growing world population is one of the biggest reasons for agriculture’s growth. Whether on a state, national or global scale, we have more people and less land. This means we’ve had to learn to farm smarter. Agricultural economics and practices in sustainable farming have reached new heights that allow us to produce more efficiently than ever before.

In addition to its massive global importance, agriculture is attaining current media relevancy. Farms used to be places at the far edge of civilization, not thought of in suburban or big-city bustle. However, certain movements in the agriculture industry have changed that.

Organically grown foods are the most prevalent of these movements. With a national emphasis on health and wellness, the idea that certain fruits and vegetables are even better for you is extremely appealing. Whole foods and organic foods are now widely marketed to the health-conscious people of America.

More and more supermarkets now cater to people with a variety of diets, from vegetarian or vegan to gluten-free. These products do not just appear out of nowhere; the increased demand for highly specific products results in a growth in supply. More than ever people care about where their food is coming from.

Whether the concern is with quality or quantity, it is individuals like the agriculture students here at Iowa State who solve these agrarian problems. The last social stigma on farming has been demolished, as people of all fields recognize the importance of agriculture.

Being a student in the College of Agriculture is a thing to wear with pride. Maybe we don’t want to be firefighters and doctors and mountaineers anymore. Maybe the “dream job” of America has changed.

In any case, agricultural studies is way “cooler” than it used to be. The combination of its global importance in an ever-growing population and its cultural relevancy with the growth of specialized food markets has thrown agriculture into the spotlight.

In the words of Iowa State’s own President Steven Leath: “Ag is getting kind of sexy.”