Job opportunities abound in agronomy
By Lura Roti
Re-blogged from Agriculture Online
With 3 close friends graduating without jobs and heading to graduate school, South Dakota State University agronomy graduate Kelli Rastede, says she’s glad the major that seemed the best fit for her, is in an industry where demand for new graduates is holding steady.
“I interviewed with about 6 companies and got offers from a few. I ended up accepting a position with Syngenta,” says Rastede, 23, who grew up on a corn and soybean farm near Allen, Nebraska. “I like to keep busy and active. I don’t think I could sit behind a desk all day. I like the hands-on aspect of agronomy, and I get to be outside working with a lot of different producers.”
Her Crops Judging teammate, Kyle Gustafson, had a similar experience. He says it was nice to accept his diploma without worrying about finding a job. The Madelia, Minnesota, farm kid had one waiting for him.
“As an agronomist, like a lot of other agriculture majors, there is a sense of job security — especially in this economy,” says Gustafson, 22, who accepted a crop consultant position with Helena Chemical Company, Marshall, Minnesota. “I interviewed with a lot of big name agronomy companies — Syngenta, Monsanto, Cargill, Land O’Lakes — when it was all said and done, I had 4 offers on the table.”
As a crop consultant, Gustafson will be working with area farmers on a daily basis and will only be a short drive from his family’s crop and livestock farm.
“I’ll be helping farmers maximize the amount of money they are making on their acres. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” Gustafson says. “My career dream was to be a basic production agronomist, working directly with farmers.”
Brent Turnipseed, professor of Plant Science and manager of the SDSU Seed Testing Lab says most of his graduates have stories similar to Rastede and Gustafson’s. His students’ career opportunities haven’t been impacted by the more than 8% unemployment nationwide.
“We have more demand than students to fill,” says Turnipseed, who adds SDSU has one of the largest agronomy departments in the nation.
Chris McInteer would agree. As an agronomist and division manager with Crop Quest, St. Marys, Kansas, McInteer says that over the last few years the pool of agronomy applicants has dwindled, making it a challenge for him to fill positions each year.
“The pool has gotten pretty shallow over the last 8 years,” says McInteer, who adds that Crop Quest, a privately owned crop consulting firm, hires about 5 to 6 full-time agronomists and 15-20 interns each year.
He sees a close link between today’s demand for agronomists and farmers’ acceptance of precision ag products.
“I’ve never seen the future brighter than right now for agronomists. Ten to 15 years ago I never heard about a cooperative or dealer having an in-house agronomist. Today, many have more than one on staff. Producers want information on precision ag products,” McInteer says. “It’s not a deal where they don’t know about the technology, but they have questions. With the way commodity prices are, they want to make sure every decision, is the right decision.”
Based on what he’s learned in the classroom and through internships, Gustafson feels prepared to advise producers.
“I feel very prepared to take on the industry with precision agriculture. Through my internships I worked with precision ag with yield mapping software. One thing that I think many people forget is that in our generation, we grew up with the software. When we sat down and started working with it, it was actually easy compared to how it looks,” Gustafson says. “SDSU offered quite a few classes that prepared us for precision agriculture — focusing on precision management — I feel I’m prepared to provide the skills to help producers maximize yields.”
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