There's a trend that I have noticed growing among rural high schools, specifically within their agriculture departments. Last week, I heard a high school counselor say "I have many students interested in agriculture, just not the type of agriculture that would go to college." This statement infuriated me, I won't lie. Especially as a high school guidance counselor, why would you tell a student that they should not go to college for the career they want to pursue? Now I know the train of thought she had. The students she was referencing wanted to just go back to the farm.
Any student wanting to go back to the farm should get at least a Bachelor's degree. My father runs a dairy farm, and he has a Master's degree. The knowledge he obtained from college allows him to run the business side of the farm rather than having to call an accountant to manage the finances. He understands animal science and the pharmaceuticals he uses to treat his animals. This allows him to save money on calling the vet every other day and allows for more effective treatment. His knowledge of crop and soil science also aids him when trying to work in the fields. His money did not go to waste in college; it saved him money in the long run. It is important that students know this path exists if they want to go back to the farm, and that it isn't always best to simply go with what you know.
There are all kinds of degrees you can earn if you just want to go back to the farm. You could major in crop and soil science, agribusiness economics, general agriculture, animal science, or agricultural systems and education. The options are endless, and they will better your knowledge of the agriculture industry. You can never know too much as a farmer. Farmers have to wear many hats, and you may as well be trained in as many trades as you can. Going to college can also help you find out what type of farmer you want to be. Your family may own a beef operation, and you assume that is what you will do. However, if you take a basic crop science class, you may change your mind and decide your passion is really there instead.
The amount of technology in farming is astounding. Drones are being utilized in fields, robotic milkers are entering milking stalls, and precision farming is on the rise. It is important that students understand all of these new-age technologies that can help raise their yields rather than just going back to the farm without any knowledge of what they can do with technology. Farming methods have changed dramatically in the past 15 years. Don't trust your grandpa to teach you all you need to know in this modern world.
You also may find yourself walking down a path you never thought you would. There's many students who go to college just to go back to the farm, and become really interested in something along the way. Whether its weed science or plant pathology, you may decide you want to do something completely different. That's ok. That's what college should help you do. No student knows they want to go to grad school and study the gut bacteria in pigs, but yet there are students making research projects out of that. Your educational career isn't a cookie cutter. You just have to give it the opportunity to flourish.
It is important that every ag teacher, school counselor, and high school administration help push students towards the direction of a bachelor's degree. We should never have the mindset that knowledge isn't needed, and that we should simply do the bare minimum.