Agriculture is the science of growing food and livestock for human consumption. It can be a practice as small as a person growing enough food in their yard for their own family or as large as a commercial farm or ranch growing a product or raising an animal for a major national brand. Humans began practicing agriculture about 12,000 years ago, using it to replace their hunting and gathering lifestyles. That led to people having a surplus of food that they could use to trade with their neighbors, and it gave them time to focus on other parts of life beyond looking for something to eat. Almost all food and fabrics made today are agricultural products, as is the wood used for paper and construction. Because of the invention of machinery, synthetic fertilizer, and pesticides, modern agriculture looks much different than the labor-intensive versions of the past. However, in recent years, many people have pushed for a return to more sustainable and regenerative practices that don't have a negative impact on the environment. Either way, agriculture is considered the basis of life today.
Everyone who eats or wears clothing can benefit from learning about agriculture and understanding exactly where many of the products you buy come from. Often, people push for it to become a bigger part of public school education for children in elementary, middle, and high school so that they'll have a better understanding of where their food comes from and how it's part of the much bigger picture that is modern society. Those who study agriculture often have a better relationship with food, a stronger connection to the natural world, and a greater appreciation for people around the world. Studying agriculture can also open up many job opportunities across a number of career fields.
About 17% of the workforce is involved in agriculture in some form, making it the largest employer in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When most people think of ag careers, they think of becoming a farmer, but there are dozens of career opportunities. Many people with agriculture degrees enter the business world with jobs as marketers, salespeople, financial analysts, loan officers, e-commerce specialists, and forest product managers for large agricultural companies. If you prefer more of a scientific career, studying agriculture could lead to becoming a veterinarian, a food scientist, a biologist, an irrigation engineer, an animal scientist, an agronomist, or a biological engineer. If you want to become an educator, you can teach agriculture or environmental or animal sciences at the high school or college levels. You can also work in government as a plant or animal inspector or an outdoor recreation manager.
This FAQ content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.