The drought monitor report as of Tuesday, Feb. 21 indicates an expansion of exception drought in Southwest, South central, and part of Southeast Kansas. On the positive side, drought has disappeared from much of Northeast and part of East Central Kansas. Parts of North Central Kansas have improved to abnormally dry. Any progress in the state helps. The six to ten-day outlook (Feb. 28 to March 4) indicates a 40 to 50% chance of leaning above normal temperatures and 33 to 40% chance of leaning above normal precipitation. The eight to 14-day outlook (March 2 to 8) indicates near normal temperatures and a 33 to 50% chance of leaning to above normal precipitation. Normal precipitation starts to increase in March so maybe there’s a slight glimmer of hope.
Like many sectors of the economy, agriculture faces a severe shortage of workers in all aspects of the industry. From farmers and ranchers to co-ops and feedlots; service technicians and all aspects of technology; food processing and every aspect of ag business there is overall an aging workforce nearing retirement and a shortage of trained, skilled workers wanting to make the industry a career. There are many reasons. For those wishing to become producers, costs can be prohibitive without family farm/ranch connections and often times even then. While some careers are located in areas with larger populations, say Wichita or Kansas City, many career opportunities are located in rural areas with sparser populations. Adding to the dilemma in rural areas is a lack of decent, affordable housing in many areas, coupled with an absence of what consider necessary amenities for a good lifestyle. From a lack of nearby medical care to shopping, educational, and cultural opportunities, many are leery of a rural lifestyle. Part of this is perception and part is reality. The reality part can be addressed through commitment of time, and money from local to state and federal assistance which is slowly starting to happen. The perception part must be overcome through education. People can learn career skills wither on the job or through two- and four-year schooling.
There is, however, one huge obstacle in making progress in obtaining the necessary – labels. These include how much of society labels the agriculture industry and what exactly it is; how certain sectors of agriculture label urban individuals; and how “city folk” label themselves in relation to their ability to work in agriculture. In fairness, agriculture has spent time, energy, and resources over the last decade reaching out to the nonagricultural parts of society and much more willing to hire/train people without an ag background as long they possess the proper work ethic. Higher education from technical and community colleges to land grant universities and trying to educate the general public as to the opportunities and high school counselors to consider careers in ag.
What’s the purpose of today’s column? Whether a high school senior in a local USD or someone who wants a career change or is underemployed, explore the possible career choices in agriculture. From farmhand to working in a feedlot, from precision ag to marketing, there are excellent career opportunities across all aspects of ag.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207, or [email protected].