If you think a career in agriculture means buying a farm, you’re missing out on a diverse and booming industry.
From food product developers to conservation biologists to golf course superintendents, the range of jobs under the umbrella of food and agriculture is broader than ever before — and experts say there aren’t enough trained workers to fill them, making it a great field for job seekers.
“People have this misconception that agriculture means only farmers, only growers,” said Manish Raizada, a geneticist and professor in the department of plant agriculture at the University of Guelph. “But agriculture — meaning food — is the second-largest sector in Ontario, after automotive.”
56 per cent of agriculture employers predict increase in hires
A 2017 report from the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College reveals 44 per cent of food employers and 56 per cent of agriculture employers project a general increase in the average number of new hires over the next five years.
The survey of more than 120 Ontario employers also found just over half of food respondents and nearly 70 per cent of agriculture respondents find it tricky to fill those roles.
It’s a similar trend elsewhere in the country, and south of the border. In the United States, an average of nearly 60,000 agriculture job openings are expected annually for the next few years — but there aren’t enough grads to fill them, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University.
Because of that gap, Raizada said his students often get multiple job offers, and stressed that people unfamiliar with the agriculture and food industry need to think outside the box in terms of what career opportunities are possible.
Diverse assortment of jobs available
Field production, greenhouse production, food processing, fisheries — they’re all big industries, he said. “The greenhouse industry is a billion-dollar industry in Ontario,” Raizada added. “Out west in the prairies, it’s an even larger percentage.”
People who train in agriculture may work in the banking industry, while people who train in food science could work at brewing companies, said Karen Landman, interim associate dean external relations at the Ontario Agriculture College.
Canada’s wine industry — be it the Niagara region in Ontario, or the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia — are also hot-spots for agriculture grads, as are start-up food companies.
“Consumers want to feel connected to their food, and there are lots of startups around going from farm-to-fork with as few steps as possible, disrupting the traditional model of food,” said Raizada, adding that these are all typically high-paying jobs.
The bottom line, according to Landman, is that these roles often don’t involve actually working on a farm — unless that’s your jam.
“It could be an urban situation working in a large brewing company or food company,” she said. “There’s a lot of variety.”
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