UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences sees increased enrollment
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Rich Crest Farms is one of the vendors that attends the weekly farmers market held on Sundays in St. Phillips Plaza. Every week they show up to sell a variety of vegetables to Tucson Locals.
Agricultural departments at universities across the nation have seen a rise in both undergraduate and graduate enrollment.
The number of undergraduate students enrolled in agriculture programs nationwide has risen more than 17 percent since 2006 and continues to increase, according to the Food and Agricultural Education Information System database.
In the fall of 2011, there were 3,265 students enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the UA, an increase of more than 1,000 students from 2006, according to the UA Office of Institutional Research and Planning Support.
The agriculture college at the UA is promoting the growth in enrollment by adding multiple program specialties and facilities.
The UA has four Tucson Area Agricultural Centers that provide students with a location to research and study food production, greenhouse production and breeding. There is also a 50,000-acre range outside of Tucson that is used for research studies and several direct internships that are available to students to help increase the appeal of the program and promote a higher standard of education in agriculture.
“It is absolutely critical that farmers stay highly educated and proactive in increasing productivity on their farms in an efficient manner,” said Steve Husman, director of UA’s Tucson Area Agricultural Centers. ”There is absolutely no question that agriculture production is going to be as important, if not more so, in the future from the challenges relative to population increase.”
Husman said the rise in the number of students going to college to study agriculture is thought to be a product of technological advancements in the industry.
“Farming has become an increasingly high-technology based operation,” Husman said.
With the invention of genetically modified organisms and other advances in efficient productivity, agriculture has become increasingly science based. Farming is no longer thought of as a profession that does not require a college degree, according to some.
“When people think agriculture, they think sows, plows and cows,” said Andie Tanner, a senior studying agricultural technology management and education. “Agriculture isn’t that way anymore.
Agriculture is science and people forget that.”
Some believe students are attracted to the industry because it demands innovation and creativity to thrive, and with the combination of potential profitability and rapid development of the agricultural business, it can lead to a secure and successful career.
“The future of farming is very positive and the reason is really quite simple; it’s all based upon supply and demand and world population,” Husman said. “The farmers are challenged to find more efficient ways to produce increasing amounts of food and fiber for the population of the world.”
The youth movement has already begun in the community with large farms encouraging the involvement of young people. RichCrest Farms, located in Cochise, Ariz., promotes youth participation by partnering with programs that bring children to the farms to experience what it has to offer.
“A lot of people in their 20’s, they don’t look at being a farmer as a career. I think if more people came to the farmers’ markets and the U-pick’s and stuff like that, then the youth will see that there is a career in that,” said Josh Dumas, a farmer from RichCrest Farms.