August 20, 2021

DrKohl_color The Ag Globe Trotter

Dr. Dave M. Kohl

Welcome to the weekly edition of The Ag Globe Trotter by Dr. Dave Kohl.

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In my travels and engagement through webinars, a number of questions are coming from individuals concerning the future prospects of careers and employment in the agriculture industry. The current shortage of workers in many areas would certainly build a case. Many of you reading this column have children, grandchildren or a neighboring youngster that may be uncertain about future endeavors. Let’s examine some of the prospects for employment and careers in the agriculture industry.

Approximately 6.7 million people work in the agriculture and food industry, including natural resources. However, when food service and related fields are added, the number increases to 22 million or nearly one in nine workers in the U.S. The growth rate for employment is expected to be 60,000 jobs annually or a 2.6% growth rate.

Regardless of one’s endeavors, the agriculture industry represents a wide span of opportunities. Careers range from the knowledge generators with degrees and advanced degrees, the rapidly growing fields of technicians on the innovative forefront, and to the producers working on the front lines. A young person can expect 10 to 20 changes throughout the employment pathway in a lifetime. One size really does not fit all! From practitioners to entrepreneurs, the ability to adapt and be a lifelong learner and student of the field are critical for success.

The following is some advice for individuals considering the field or changing responsibilities.

  • Do not limit yourself. The industry, like yourself, may evolve over time with interest and opportunities. Your agriculture career is not a sprint, but a marathon or journey in an environment of accelerated change. 
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable. The industry competition, consumers and trends that influence the industry will require one to be adaptable and pivot quickly. 
  • Think outside the box. This way of thinking can lead to unique opportunities that can make a difference in people’s lives while being compensated monetarily. 

A college or university education is not for everyone; however, a skill set with the mindset of being responsible, accountable and able to work with a diverse group of people are critical skills. 

Organizations such as 4-H, FFA, MANRRS and other leadership programs are difference makers. Exposure to contests, debates and teamwork develops life skills that build confidence and self-esteem for young adults.





Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 8 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,300 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension and other popular publications.

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