The son of an old friend stopped by last week to ask for some advice. He’s a senior in high school and is planning on going to college to study agriculture. The boy has now passed the biggest hurdle by having a family that is already established in farming, and willing to transition the land and equipment to him in the future, but he wanted my opinion on what areas to study.

After informing him my advice was worth exactly what he was paying for it, I proceeded to offer him my suggestions. I told him everything starts with the soil and he would need to take some soil science courses to understand structure, fertility and conservation methods. Next, he would need to take some plant science courses to try and understand how seeds and plants were produced, and how they grow and reproduce during each stage of their life cycle. He would also need some chemistry courses to better enable him to select and handle the myriad of herbicides and pesticides that he would be using in the future.

Knowing his family also has livestock, I told him he would need a good background in animal breeding and genetics courses, that would allow him to constantly improve the quality and performance of his animals, while implementing newer technologies of artificial insemination and embryo transfer. Lots of courses in nutrition would be required, as well as a good working knowledge of veterinary science in order to manage herd health.

I went on to explain his parents owned hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of high-tech equipment that needed to be serviced and repaired each year, so two or three courses of study in agricultural engineering would be more than beneficial. He would need to understand the workings of GPS systems, hydraulics, computer integration and materials handling systems, just to name a few.

Lastly, I stressed the importance of study in economics, business management and, especially, marketing methods to make a profit and keep the farm in good financial shape.

I could tell the young lad was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed before I added, “Unfortunately, almost nothing pans out exactly like the textbooks say it will, so you have to rely on the experience you gain through the years, to constantly adjust and adapt.”

“Whew,” he sighed. “Everything seems pretty complicated and difficult.”

“It is,” I responded

Sensing the young man might be having second thoughts about his future occupational aspirations, I told him that if my previous advice seemed too intimidating, he could always become a politician.

“And just how would I learn to be one of those?” he asked.

“No problem,” I answered. “I can teach anyone how to become a politician in four minutes. You just go out and beg for cash from big-money donors, hire a PR firm to make some slick TV ads, make a couple of speeches and, POOF, you’re a politician.”

“That does seem a lot easier than being a farmer,” he said.

“It is.”

Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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