Find Your Passion in Agriculture
What do you want to be when you grow up?
That may be the most frequently asked question of high school juniors and seniors. It is asked of any young adult who has not yet settled on a career path.
If this is a question you or someone you know is wrestling with, consider agriculture, Pennsylvania's leading industry, which contributes over $135 billion to the state's economy annually. It is an essential, life sustaining industry with a wide variety of fulfilling career paths.
Over the coming ten years, Pennsylvania will need more than 75,000 new pairs of hands to work in the industry. Explore the different agriculture jobs that pay enough to feed a family and build a good life, while contributing to feeding the community, the nation and the world.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has identified 28 occupations that will be most in demand by the agriculture and food Industry over the next decade.
Normally, when we think of the agriculture and food industry, we think of farmers, but opportunities in agriculture go well beyond traditional farming and include forestry, wood working, food processing, landscaping, butchers, bakers and soil and water conservationists.
When considering a career path, think about how you would like to spend your days: indoors, outdoors, working alone or with other people, working with animals or plants, transforming milk into yogurt, grapes into wine or potatoes into chips, looking through a microscope, driving a tractor, selling produce at a farmers market or selling large quantities of wheat to a flour mill. Agriculture offers many jobs that feed the soul as well as the world.
Think about the education experience that best fits your vision. If you are in high school, join 4-H or FFA.
The 4-H program is open to anyone ages 8-18. It includes mentoring and career readiness as core elements in all its projects. Members complete hands-on projects in areas like science, health, agriculture and civic engagement. Project are diverse enough to include rocketry, learning about computers or raising and showing chickens, pigs, cows, horses, dogs or cats.
FFA is a career and technical student organization based on middle and high school classes. It promotes agricultural education. In FFA, students participate in equally diverse Supervised Agricultural Experiences such as breeding and marketing sheep, bee keeping, or conducting a water quality study.
After high school, Pennsylvania has several excellent agricultural universities where you can earn a degree in numerous segments of the agricultural industry.
Or you could earn as you learn through an agricultural apprenticeship.
In Pennsylvania, we currently have four registered agricultural apprenticeships. The Northeast Equipment Dealerships Association supports an Ag Equipment Technician Apprenticeship that teaches how to repair big tractors, combines and other farm equipment. With the complexity of modern farm implements, we have a need for more people with these skills. In the next 10 years, Pennsylvania predicts more than 1,000 job openings in this field as current farm equipment mechanics and service technicians retire.
Two apprenticeships through Pasa Sustainable Agriculture are the Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship and the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship. Both programs teach how to manage a farm.
And lastly the Landscape Management Apprenticeship through Eichenlaub, Inc. provides apprentices with thorough training, a professional mentor and progressively higher wages as skills and competencies increase. Candidates must be at least 16 years of age, have earned a high school diploma or a GED equivalent, and enjoy the outdoors and working in a team environment.
A career in the agriculture industry offers lots of opportunities in science, technology, engineering, management, and traditional farming. It is fulfilling, meaningful work, that feeds the community and allows you to create, enhance and protect the food supply while spending your days connected to nature.
5 Ways to get Youth Involved in Agriculture
1. Join Agriculture Youth Organizations & Clubs
- Find local 4-H clubs, FFA chapters, MANRRS, urban gardens and other agriculture organizations near you!
2. Bring Agriculture into Your Home
- Home gardening, science experiments and pet and livestock caretaking are all great ways to have a hand-on agricultural experience at home.
3. Agriculture is a Science - Take a Class!
- Agriculture and environmental science classes are often electives in middle and high schools. Reach out to your school district to see what options are available.
4. Job Shadowing & Part-Time Opportunities
- Interested in agriculture career? Take a day to job shadow with a veterinarian, farmer, scientist, or other agriculturalists.
- Find part-time opportunities within agriculture. Explore on-farm jobs in both traditional and urban agriculture. Seek opportunities with farm to table restaurants. Discover agriculture marketing and food science at a local on-farm market. Find your future in agriculture!
5. Discover Your Next Step
- Discover agriculture and STEM-related majors – find degree programs that sparks your passion.
- Considering entering the workforce? Find a hands-on apprenticeship program through Pennsylvania's three certified apprenticeship programs.