Many students plan to head back to the farm after college

Amy Thompson

The Agriculture Career Fair is coming up, and some won’t attend. Not because they don’t want to hand out a resume or obtain a job, but because they already have a career.


There are more than 3,000 undergraduates in our College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, but some of them are in college as a backup plan, which may seem odd to other majors. Russell Mullen, professor in Agronomy says that 20 to 25 percent of agriculture students commonly go back to farm after graduation.

“The large capital investment to start farming is the biggest obstacle to our students, not the lack of interest or the lack of skills or knowledge to start farming,” said Mullen.

Farming is more than planting and watering. It essentially is a business, and to run a business efficiently people need to have more skills than just the basics.

“Many of my classmates who are planning to farm after graduation already have excellent skills when it comes to tending the earth and growing crops. But farming is more than just having a really big garden. Farming requires knowledge of soil science, crop physiology, climate, biology, chemistry and many more disciplines that are better learned at an institution,” said Thomas Mullen, junior in agronomy and environmental studies.

Calvin Pudenz is a senior in agricultural studies, and he plans on returning to his family farm and getting into traditional Iowa products of corn, soybeans and cattle. He chose Iowa State because the college is well known for having strong agriculture and agronomy programs.

Pudenz’s farm is a family-run farm, which is normal for most farms in Iowa. Making sure a farm is family-run is a big reason why some men and women choose to farm when graduated.

“Having a family farm has a huge influence on why I want to stick with farming. There is a lot of pride and joy that comes from a hard day of work on the farm,” Pudenz said.

“I believe that the farming community is the key steward of Iowa’s land and I am glad to see so many of my educated classmates taking their knowledge home to enhance Iowa’s farms,” Mullen said.

There is also a club on campus called Beginning Farmers Network that students can join and network with each other.