17 Oct Top Careers Assisting Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainability is a major area of focus for agriculture. In addition to concerns over precious resources such as soil and water, the food system contributes up to 8.6% of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions.
The field of sustainable agriculture draws agricultural graduates because they often want to make a difference at the farm level. Plus, they can build a more sustainable system where food production occurs.
Many graduates are looking for career opportunities that will allow them to make the industry more eco-friendly. With the right planning, you can find a rewarding career in sustainable agriculture.
If you want to create a more sustainable food system, here are a few agricultural career paths to consider.
Agronomist — or Crop Scientist
An agronomist is a crop expert who specializes in improving crops and growing processes through research and experimentation. Agronomists, also called crop scientists, are some of the most in-demand professionals in agriculture.
In this position, your title will fall somewhere between farmer and researcher. You’ll spend a lot of time out in the field and talking with other farmers, but you’ll also be a crop expert. You should be up-to-date on the latest developments in your specialty, plus possess a strong knowledge base in a particular niche.
Like with many other jobs in agriculture, your knowledge will be valuable. You will be put in a position to find the most sustainable and practical solutions to creating a more eco-friendly agriculture.
Agricultural Law and Policy Experts
Some of the most significant changes in agriculture don’t happen at the farm level. At regulatory agencies and lobbying firms, decisions that shape the future of agriculture are made every day by policy experts and lawyers.
Certain post-baccalaureate agriculture degrees — like a master’s in agricultural law and policy — combine agriculture policy training with law education.
Here are some examples of career paths you can pursue with an advanced degree in Ag Policy:
- Environmental Compliance Officer
- Agricultural Lawyer
- Conservation Officer
Because these degrees are focused on policy rather than practice, you may not need a background — or bachelor’s — in agriculture to pursue one. In fact, the analytic and writing experience provided by a history, political science or English degree may be beneficial.
As a policy expert, you probably won’t spend much time working hands-on in agriculture. However, you will be able to act as a powerful representative of sustainability in the organization where you work.
As a farm manager, you’ll be responsible for the day-to-day operations, such as field planning, overseeing staff and operating farm equipment. You’ll also need to make sure everything runs smoothly. No day will look the same — you’ll have a variety of responsibilities and work with all kinds of people and equipment.
In this position, you are not the owner. You may have less control than you’d like over the way your business operates. Certain infrastructure upgrades — like solar panels for a renewable source of energy — may not be your call.
You may also have little say in major decisions — like purchasing land, hiring farmhands and choosing crops to plant. If you don’t work at a farm that match your values and sustainability objectives, you may only be able to influence how work gets done — not change it.
If you do have the opportunity, working as a farm manager for a business that aligns with your values can be an excellent way to learn more about sustainable agriculture in action. Work with experienced farmers and teach others what you know about the trade.
Sustainable Agriculture Researcher
You’re not interested in working in the field all day, but you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. Maybe you’re more curious about the why of agriculture rather than the how. If this sounds like you, sustainable agriculture research is the way to go.
It’s a good time to be a sustainable agriculture researcher. Between 2000 and 2014, private funding for agricultural research and development jumped from $6 to $12 million. Certain schools now offer certifications and entire degrees in sustainable agriculture.
Some institutions, like the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, provide grants specifically for ag scientists and farmers who want to perform research.
Finding a Career a Sustainable Agriculture
If you want a career in sustainable agriculture, you have plenty of options. Agriculture workers are in high demand, and several degree programs can support you. The best path will give you leverage, as well as the opportunity to work for farms or organizations that reflect your commitment to sustainability.
Emily covers topics in sustainability, agriculture and green technology. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.