Students react to Yahoo! article slamming ag majors


Illustration: Jordan Melcher/Iowa State Daily

The agriculture community is defending agriculture majors by pointing out that with a growing population more food is required.

Maia Zewert

A recent article, titled “College Majors That Are Useless” and published on Yahoo!, has received a lot of attention from the agriculture community.

Written by Terence Loose, the article claimed that agriculture was the most useless degree. Also, making Loose’s top five list were animal science [#4] and horticulture [#5].

“If your idea of a good day is getting up with the sun and working till it sets as an agricultural manager, a degree in agriculture might be your calling. Just don’t expect farms and ranches to be calling you,” the Yahoo! article said.

“As future food producers for the entire world, those of us who are studying agriculture find it unsettling that this is what the opinion of what our degrees really mean to society,” said Brean Bettencourt, member of “I Love Farmers…They Feed My Soul” a grass-roots movement created to spread the importance of agriculture.

“Considering the whole basis of our education is to provide food for the world, our degrees are on the contrary, useful,” Bettencourt said.

Wendy Wintersteen, Iowa State’s dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences, along with the deans of agriculture from Purdue University, the University of Illinois and Ohio State University, responded to Loose’s article.

“The Yahoo Education article equated ‘agriculture’ with ‘farm management,'” the deans’ article said. “Farm management is an important field of study, but defining agriculture only as farm management is much too narrow.”

David Acker, associate dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences was able to elaborate.

“The person who wrote the article probably had a narrow definition of agriculture, which I think is a common misunderstanding by people outside of the field,” Acker said. “Those of us inside the industry know that ‘agriculture’ is quite a broad term.”

Iowa State has 25 different majors within the College of Agriculture.

Kylie Miller, freshman in agricultural education, pointed out how versatile a degree in agriculture can really be.

“Ag degrees can vary; you can work in an office, work out in the fields and barns, work to come up with better genetics in the lab,” Miller said. “The degree can really be endless. You just have to look for what best fits you and your understanding of agriculture.”

In the 2010-2011 school year, Iowa State had 3,477 undergraduates and 703 graduate students enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, according to the Fact Book put out by the Office of Institutional Research.

Enrollment in the college has seen growth every year since the 2005-2006 school year.

Iowa State has a 98 percent placement rate among graduates within the college. According to the Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy and the Environment, between 2010 and 2015, a projected 53,500 graduates will be entering a work force with 54,400 jobs available.

“With an increasing demand for high-quality and nutritious foods, advances in agriculture science and technology, a growing population and therefore a need to produce more with less, there is in fact a wide variety of rewarding, well-paying career opportunities in agriculture,” Bettencourt said.

Agriculture sciences made’s list of top paying jobs with the average annual salary offered to 2011 graduates being $52,934.

“Agriculture is not a dead, shrinking industry,” said Darrin Rahn, senior in agricultural business. “It’s a very exciting time for agriculture and life sciences because there’s so many changes going on.”

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be holding its career fair Wednesday in the Memorial Union. The career fair is the one of the largest agriculture career fairs in the nation, with over 100 companies being represented.