Agriculture Among “20 Most Useless Degrees”… And We’re Missing the Point

Thought ya’ll might be interested in this response to yesterday’s post written by Andy Vance (Twitter, Web). I thought about this point of view before I started writing that post, but opted out. Thanks Andy for sharing your thoughts on the subject. Be sure to drop by his site and share your comments there as well.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the problems with the Daily Beast article in the first place. As Ryan notes, four degrees related to food and agriculture found their way on to the list: horticulture (#2), agriculture (#3), nutrition (#10), and animal science (#20). I’m especially screwed, as it turns out, because journalism actually made the top spot on the list… So I guess I’m in a dying profession reporting on a dying industry… Comforting, isn’t it?

Here’s the big issue, though: we’re all missing the point in our condemnation of this article.

Setting aside the validity of the article’s premise in the first place (chemistry, human resources, mechanical engineering and psychology also made the list), let’s consider the larger issue with agriculture’s inclusion at all: an otherwise intelligent reporter at an otherwise upstanding news organization (relatively speaking, given the tie to Newsweek) considered four degrees related to food production “useless.”

In true fashion, we’re all outraged that someone should think our profession “useless.” This isn’t the most outrageous fact of the case. The most shocking revelation from this story is that educated, intelligent Americans don’t realize that food production must increase 70 percent in 40 years to feed 3 billion additional human beings.

Chew that over for a minute. I’m still struggling to get my head around the idea of feeding 100 million additional Americans by 2050, let alone 3 billion additional mouths worldwide in the next four decades. Now add to that the fact that apparently most people are completely unaware of the problem in the first place, and my concern approaches critical mass.

While we’re busy worrying about telling people about the importance of farmers and ranchers, we’re skipping the most critical step in the transfer of knowledge from farm to fork: that we are standing on the razor’s edge of a potential food crisis the likes of which modern society has never known.

If we truly want to win the hearts and minds of consumers, and keep our critics at bay, let’s meet consumers where they are, and speak in terms of what they actually care about. We care about preserving our way of life and earning some respect for our profession; this doesn’t concern the consumer at all.

If we instead focus on the needs of our customer, we’ll turn this thought around and help them understand the repercussions of fewer farmers, fewer farms and ranches, and fewer professionals and food and agriculture related occupations. Namely, that the type of market volatility we’re experiencing in the petroleum markets (as viewed through the prism of consumer pain at the pump), can easily

via Agriculture Among “20 Most Useless Degrees”… And We’re Missing the Point | Andy Vance.

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