The agriculture industry starts with putting seed in the ground, however many different people play key roles in the getting that food product from the farm field to your table. Take soybeans, for example. Soybeans are the nation’s leading agricultural export and are not only a key component of many food products we consume, but they’re also a vital part of many animal’s daily nutrition. Since soybeans are in such high demand, farmers need to ensure their crop is healthy and plentiful to be sure they are producing enough soybeans to meet this demand. To help the farmer accomplish this, individuals in a variety of roles and career paths contribute to the production, distribution and use of agricultural products. Here are four examples of these careers in agriculture:
Agronomy is the science of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fiber and land reclamation. An agronomist is an expert in the science of soil management and crop production. Agronomy has come to encompass work in the areas of plant genetics, plant physiology, meteorology, and soil science. By using a method known as Precision Agriculture, agronomists help farmers by scouting their crop fields to find areas that need attention. Their goal is to help the farmer get the most yield out of each acre of crop. An agronomist may fly a drone over a farmer’s fields to make a 3D method analysis of the fields by taking many pictures and stitching them together to build a map of the entire field from an aerial view point. A crop scout will generally cover 4,000 acres a day using drones, which enables them to cover much more ground than on foot. Although an agronomist is mainly a doctor for plants; their abilities to operate a drone, find unhealthy areas within the field and diagnose illnesses using current technology helps the farmer in many ways.
Commodity brokers are a group or individual who executes orders to buy or sell commodity contracts on behalf of clients and charges them a commission. Commodities are essentially anything that can be grown or bought. Traditionally, commodity brokers buy and sell goods such as oil, grain, metals, sugar and coffee on behalf of their clients while also looking for the best sales opportunities for their clients. Hedging is a technique brokers use to reduce or eliminate financial risk. For example, at harvest many farms will have corn and soybeans to sell, so the price will not be as high as it would be in another season, or perhaps, in a different part of the world. Commodities brokers make strategic sales recommendations to farmers to help keep their farms financially viable.
Large animal veterinarians make sure farm livestock are healthy and have good nutrition, sometimes using a special mixture of feed. Every day, each cow needs to eat forage, grain, protein supplements, by-products, vitamins and minerals. Some farms will mix all these ingredients together into a Total Mixed Ration (or TMR). The TMR is fed to the cows every day and is usually their sole source of feed. When all of the ingredients are mixed together, a cow is less able to select individual ingredients to eat and more likely to get a well-balanced, well-rounded ration in every bite. Other advantages of TMR include less labor cost because everything is fed at one time and increased milk production and reproductive efficiency because cows are consuming a well-balanced ration. Technology called an activity tracker device can be used to monitor and communicate information about each cow to veterinarians and caretakers. Cow activity monitors help dairy producers boost profitability by keeping 24/7 records of the activity for each cow. Important information can be instantly relayed to the veterinarian and farmer of the cow’s behaviors, heat detection and health. Farmers rely on large animal vets to keep their cows and the milk they produce healthy.
A farm implements dealer is an agricultural sales professional who sells products related to food and crop production, and provides customer service on behalf of the companies they represent. Their jobs can vary from selling farm equipment to consumable products such as fertilizer and seed. An agricultural sales professional sells, demonstrates and specializes in products related to farming. Products they deal with can include anything from chemicals to heavy machinery, so a thorough knowledge of the agricultural industry and sales are essential for success in this role. It’s important to employers that they find a sales representative with a strong background in agriculture and particular knowledge of the industry. Farmers rely on the dealer’s equipment, parts and expertise to help boost their productivity.
To learn more about all of the different careers in agriculture that contribute to the soybean production industry, check out the website of our educational partner, the Wisconsin Soybean Program.