Growing up on one of the 96 percent of Wisconsin dairy farms that are family owned, our gravel driveway
showcased several jobs in Wisconsin agriculture. Our veterinarian would visit at least once a month for heard health. The milkman came every other day to haul our milk to one of Wisconsin’s nearly 150 cheese manufacturing plants. The local feed store delivered rations for our livestock and discussed animal nutritional needs.
It is not surprising to see so many careers pull into one driveway. About one in nine jobs in Wisconsin is related to agriculture. Each of those jobs supports a nearly additional 1.5 elsewhere in the state. Of the nearly 413,500 agricultural jobs in the state of Wisconsin, on-farm production contributes 153,900, and processing contributes 259,600 jobs.
In the past month, I have been increasingly asked what my plans are once my adventures as Alice concludes in June. I had hoped this year of traveling and networking with industry leaders across the nation would create a clear career path. Instead, I have been intrigued in all directions by the opportunities available in agriculture.
Earlier in October, I had the chance to speak with several businesses at World Dairy Expo. Their
contributions to agriculture ranged from designing livestock facilities to creating the latest technology for farmers. What impressed me the most was their staff included individuals with no prior farming backgrounds. They were drawn to the cause of providing food, fuel and fiber and found careers that fit their passions.
The diversity of Wisconsin’s agriculture industry is its greatest strength. As farmers and processors continue to become more productive, the diversity of jobs in Wisconsin agriculture will also continue to grow. The industry needs engineers, software developers, technicians and more who can adapt to and help create more effective ways of producing food, fuel and fiber for the world. Agriculture careers support many industries that include farm production, agriculture management and marketing, food science, urban planning, and energy. Wisconsin colleges are rising to the challenge by offering new, innovative programs. For instance, Wisconsin Technical Colleges offer more than 50 programs in agriculture-related fields.
With less than 2 percent of the nation actively involved in agriculture, the number of youth who see career opportunities pull into their driveway is dwindling. However, the demand for agricultural products rises as the world’s population continues to grow. Agriculture is looking for the next generation to come forward and be part of the almost endless careers available.
As members of the agriculture community, it is our responsibility to showcase the opportunities in agriculture for those who have not witnessed the industry firsthand. Fewer people are being raised on Wisconsin farms like I was, but there are more chances for them to join our efforts and keep Wisconsin agriculture moving forward.