Over the last several weeks, I’ve had a chance to interact with a wide variety of audiences: high school students, college students studying engineering, policy makers, other professional engineers, and my own friends and family. The question that most ask me is “Why Agriculture?”. Afterall, my degree is in mechanical engineering. I could’ve gone into any industry that I wanted to but here I am working at an agricultural company.
The easy answer is always “well, I wasn’t planning on it but the job offer was adequate and sounded like it had potential” and while that is partially the truth, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
It’s true that I didn’t plan on going into agriculture but it makes sense that I did. Growing up in a rural area, I was constantly surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans. Both of my parents’ families were involved in farming, and I remember by dad talking about helping out in the fields when he was a kid. Farming was the thing that I didn’t think much of when I was young, I just thought it was a normal part of everyday life. That was, until I went to college and Minneapolis and realized that being surrounded by fields was far from the norm.
In college, I was convinced that I needed to have a job that had a positive affect on people, and to me, that meant going into medical devices. I romanticized the idea of working on medical devices and building devices that could literally save lives. After an internship in the field, I realized that the scope of what most medical device jobs entail would likely not satisfy my curiosity and desire to be more hands on.
My senior year of college, I applied to a handful of jobs, including a few in the medical device field. In the end, it came down to deciding between a job at Beckman Coulter and DuPont Pioneer. I decided on Pioneer because of the unique opportunity it presented. Agriculture was certainly something that most of my friends/SWE colleagues were not involved in and I wanted to do something different.
Now that I work in agriculture, I couldn’t imagine it another way. Agriculture presents an amazing intersection of technology (from gene editing to machine learning) and literally feeding and clothing the world. There’s no industry in the world that has a more direct impact on peoples’ everyday lives than agriculture.
Agriculture is so much more than the farmers in the field. It’s the people that work to ensure that a crop provides more yield. It’s the supply chain experts that ensure that grain gets from the field to a mill. It’s even the people that consume food everyday and drive the direction of agriculture based on the decisions they make. Almost every career path there is can be realized by working for an agricultural company.
I am proud to work in agriculture and serve as a voice for the industry. Educating those that don’t work in agriculture but who are consumers of it (aka everyone) is one of the most rewarding parts of this field.
So now, instead of looking for an answer to the question “Why agriculture?”, I like to think “Why not agriculture?”.