CP editorial: A farmer is a jack of all trades, but not without a foundation of education

To be successful in the agriculture industry, which, as former President Teddy Roosevelt said is “the basis of civilization,” you must have a vast understanding of the functions of your farming or ranching operation. One way you can ensure this knowledge is under your belt is by attending college or technical school. Earning a college degree is all about opening doors for your future. It will give you the skills, background and connections needed to find and earn a job. The benefits of going to college significantly outweigh the negative of debt accumulation.

When earning a college education, you will be able to gain valuable information about new farming techniques, how to manage your farm financially and how to manage resources for the future. In recent years, agriculture technology reached nearly $5 billion of investment according FORBES reports. For crop farmers, this may include information such as how to use the latest sensors in their fields to view their crops from anywhere in the world. For cattle farmers, this could be learning ways to manage your herd through drone technology. No matter what sector in the industry you fall under, everyone needs some education to be qualified to do their job.

There are many valuable lessons that can be learned from working through the courses necessary to earn a college degree. There are general education classes that may help you understand rural development and farming history. The speech class that teaches you how to communicate with others will ensure a verbal route in your future. Lessons like these can only be learned in a classroom and often aren’t honed in on enough in high school systems.

A specific benefit would be from an accounting or money management class. It is vital to the success of any farming operation to be able to manage funds. Balancing books, analyzing accounts and other fundamental financial skills are extremely important to be able to build and grow the farm. These skills can go a long way towards helping a young farmer just starting out or furthering the operation.

Whether or not a college education is needed to succeed in farming is not without detractors. However, I believe it is essential because of the knowledge gained beyond the actual classroom. Learning to work hard, follow through with a task and time management skills are just a few personal characteristics that often develop in college. Additionally, the ability to think critically and communicate clearly and concisely are irreplaceable soft skills that must be developed to ensure rural prosperity in the United States.

Working with people is a skill we all use daily. Communication is the axis that the agriculture industry turns on. Whether it be buying and selling product, managing employees or visiting with neighbors, it’s how we function as a connected industry. Taking advantage of the opportunities to get involved in college through clubs and other student organizations is an important way for farm kids to grow. Getting involved shows people first-hand how to operate as a leader, student, organization member and friend.

Having the opportunity to attend a post-secondary school is a blessing that shouldn’t be taken for granted. With the unrest, high costs and instability in the agriculture industry, a young person’s hopes of farming full time may not be feasible. They may have to farm only part time and work an additional job to make ends meet. This is yet another reason earning a degree is valuable, to have a back-up plan. Studying any aspect of agriculture can lead to an additional job in the industry. You can, however, “double-dip” and major in something that will be beneficial both for your off-farm job, as well as the time you spend in the field.

If agriculturalists want to continue to further the development and communication of the farming and ranching industries, we must be educated, well versed, connected and ready to teach. Education, along with agriculture, is at the forefront of every industry. The world around us relies on both, we can’t let people down. We must be prepared for anything and that means never putting agriculture education on the back burner.