Teaching Students About Careers in Agriculture
Why Teach About Agricultural Careers?
The term "agricultural careers" brings to mind for many an image of a farmer in overalls maneuvering a tractor through a field of wheat, or a weathered ranch hand throwing feed to the animals. There are many options on the agricultural career ladder, however, from farm and orchard laborers to soil scientists trained to study and develop the perfect soil conditions to yield specific crops. In order for food to be produced, agricultural experts will always be necessary. Address the following careers in an agriculture lesson plan to introduce your students to a small sampling of the vast array of options in this field.
Students will be able to:
- Identify the many different types of careers available and necessary in agriculture.
- List the order of job importance relative to how food is produced.
- Explain educational background required for the various agricultural careers.
- Utilize the Internet for research purposes.
- Recognize farming processes through completion of a worksheet (accessible below).
Prior Knowledge and Agriculture Careers List
Here is a list of many of the occupations associated with agriculture for student use during the lesson activities:
- Agronomist (plant scientists who research plants and develop new and better crops)
- Farmer (may run dairy, animal, crop, vegetable, or fruit farms)
- Animal nutritionist (works with farmers and feed mills to understand nutritional needs of farm animals)
- Soil conservationist or scientist (studies soil care and quality)
- Orchard worker (cares for trees in a fruit orchard)
- Veterinarian (cares for the health of animals)
- Inspector (enforces safe food policies)
- Truck driver (transports food or animals to stores and farms)
- Store owner (sells food produced on farms and in orchards)
- Agricultural equipment operator (operates farm machinery and tractors)
- Animal breeder (produces high quality animals for farm work and food)
- Farm laborer (does manual work on farm)
- Graders and sorters (grade, classify, and sort unprocessed food)
Activity on Steps of Food Production
Have students list three of their favorite foods.
Using the Agricultural Careers short list (found above), have the students circle the workers they think are required to produce and manufacture one of their favorite foods.
Have the students put the workers they've circled in order of who they believe becomes involved first to last.
Example: If a student listed mashed potatoes, their list may look like the following:
- farm laborer
- agricultural equipment operator
- graders and sorters
- truck driver
- store owner
Activity on Agriculture Careers Through Research
Have the students, individually or in small groups, select a job from the Agricultural Careers list provided above to research online via the following sites:
USDA Living Science (Information on food, agriculture, and natural resource careers)
Sci4Kids (Agricultural Research Service provides information about a variety of agricultural careers)
AgJobs (Information provided by the College of Agriculture Auburn University)
AgDay (Information about National Agriculture Day and career options)
My American Farm (Games, information, and resources on careers in agriculture)
Have each student, or group, answer the following questions about their chosen career:
- Do I need a college degree or special training for this career? If yes, describe.
- What skills are needed for this career?
- What are some of the duties that go with this job?
- What things would someone who pursued this career be interested in?
Have each student, or group, present their information to the class either through an oral report, poster, or PowerPoint slideshow.
Organize an Agricultural Career Day
Have students dress as they would if they worked in their chosen career (farmer, scientist, veterinarian, etc.). Invite parents or students from other classes to visit and ask questions about their occupations. Students can use the information they collected in the research activity to answer.
From Farmer Jon's to You Worksheet
Download this free worksheet and have the class complete to learn all the steps needed to get milk from the farm to their local grocery store. Discuss the different jobs that would be necessary to complete all the steps.
Lesson Adaptation Suggestions
There is no grade that is too early to begin discussing career options, and no grade too late. Reading stories to younger children about the different types of jobs performed on a farm will likely be sufficient, whereas older grades can go beyond this lesson plan on agricultural careers with more thorough and detailed research assignments.