Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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HOMEGROWN Life: Utility or Useless?

2/3/2012 1:35:35 PM

Tags: winter, research, danille, yellow tree farm, missouri, college, agriculture, degree, education, Farm Aid and Homegrown.org

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People wonder what exactly farmers do in the winter, and oftentimes, they assume there isn’t much of anything for a farmer to do during the cold months at all. While it’s true that wintertime is the perfect season for farmers to take a vacation, literally (many farmers choose this time of the year to go out of town and have some fun) and figuratively (winter offers a nice respite from the year’s hard work), my experiences of urban farming in the cold months so far have been full of labor. 

 
 FarmWinter 

The weather this year in particular has been freakishly warm in our area. Our mustard greens and other brassica stayed fresh in their beds as the frosts we suffered were mild in their severity. Sixty-degree days in December and January meant that we were outside working the soil, installing fence posts, weeding, harvesting, and repairing equipment.

Winter’s also the time we spend doing a lot of research. Right now for instance, we’re flipping through library books on dahlias and cut flower production. If we want to grow new varieties of any plant, flower, herb or fruit, it’s necessary that we research thoroughly how to grow it, and anticipate what could potentially go wrong. After all, we’re not only spending our money on these seeds, plants, tools and infrastructure – we’re also spending our time and hard work.

 FarmWinter2  

But is this effort worth it? The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that it’s not. They recently released a study naming Agriculture as the #1 most “useless” college degree, with Animal Sciences and Horticulture making the list at numbers 4 and 5, respectively.

I confess that I went to a college with a stellar Agriculture program, but honestly, back then all I did was chuckle at the country bumpkin hicks who flocked to that program. My attitude now however is significantly different.

While I don’t believe that anyone necessarily needs a degree in a farming-related field in order to successfully farm, I certainly wouldn’t classify studying courses like “Ethical Issues in Sustainable Agriculture” as useless.

Clearly the NACE considers “useless” degrees to be ones in which pay is low and availability of jobs is scarce. However, shouldn’t measuring the usefulness of an education take into account the actual benefits bestowed upon the person doing the studying? After all, I can’t think of anything in life more useful than honing the skills necessary to feed not only oneself, but the community-at-large as well.

 

DanielleYellowTree
   “I’m half of YellowTree Farm, an urban homestead that I founded with my husband in late 2008. Together, we grow vegetables and raise animals on less than 1/10 of an acre in St. Louis, Missouri. I don’t have children. I have animals, which is kind of the same thing as being a parent, except I eat my babies.”  



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JOHN SEALANDER
2/4/2012 8:21:40 AM
Sadly it isn't only Ag degrees, but many, if not most collegiate programs that qualify a young person to do little more that sell shoes in a dept store after graduation. Nothing wrong with that job of course, did it myself for a while, but it doesn't take $80,000 and four years to be able to handle 'the technicalities'! Ah, the joys of a Liberal arts education! My father told the story of returning home after WWII and in the third year of Electrical Engineering studies he was struggling with some Math home work. My grandfather walked by, said, "what's the problem?" and after Dad explained Grandpa said, "Oh, just do this...piece of cake". He had just solved a Calculus problem for Dad. And then taught him how to do it. He finished formal education at 13, became an apprentice, then Journeyman and then Master Tool and Die maker and in 1900 at 21 he arrived on the shores of America with his Master's certificate and the only thing he ever learned about the Great Depression was from what he read in the newspapers because he worked every week of his life till he was 75-they finally had to lock him out of the factory cause he wouldn't go home! Don't think he could quote from the Illiad or from Shakespeare, though I'm not certain on that. He could play a mean fiddle, on a fiddle his Dad made (who was a master stringed instrument maker). I don't think it's simply an 'Ag degree' but the whole of the flawed University system and the lies it tells our young people about their futures that is the real flaw. We have created whole generations of people that don't really know how to do anything productive or useful. No wonder they are disturbed and upset. Whether it's here with 'occupiers' or in the middle east or a multitude of regions around the world, young people are ticked off-well educated and useless. And they are smart enough to know it. Wouldn't you be ticked off too? We don't need "more money for Education" we need a different education system that will provide people with the knowledge and skills to do something worthwhile and productive in their lives and a pathway to independance, self-reliance and freedom rather than protests and whining. Colleges are the last place I would look for that. Want an ag degree? Follow a farmer around all day, every day and don't leave unless he threatens to shoot you. Then just move out of range. Do it long enough and he may give up and teach you. As in, "well, as long as you won't leave you might as well do something useful here." It will probably entail a shovel, a wheel barrow and a huge pile of something stinky. That's where we all start sooner or later and the trick is to find the gold in that pile. (Helpful hint-in the fall spread it on well tilled ground. In the spring plant garden or food crops. Weed and Water. Harvest and eat. Amazing-poop turns into food-who knew?!). OK, yeah there's more to it, but not much...certainly not $80,000 and four years of your life. My advise-don't waste time, run to what sets your heart ablaze and don't stop or quit or give up. You'll probably end up hiring a bunch of 'college graduates' to work for you. Do you think I'm anti-Academia? Let me clarify....Yup.

T BRANDT
2/3/2012 10:42:16 PM
From the late 19th century thru the mid 20th century the US was the leading producer of manufactured goods in the world. Thanks to increasing govt regs & union interference in free trade, we have long lost that positon of leadership. But we still do one thing right: we produce food better than anyone. This is thanks to favorable geography and to our leadership in agronomy, the science of agriculture. You don't become an agronomist by just plowing fields. Most of our farmers today are agronomists, not just plowboys. We have the highest ag yieds in the world because our farmers KNOW what they're doing, both in principle and in practice. ..I have to wonder how many Americans with degrees in psychology or art history are driving cabs or tending bar these days?. Certainly IBM would prefer to hire an MBA than a guy with a B of Ag, but then, how many with the B of Ag apply to IBM? And can the MBA grow his own food? Probaly most of the Ag majors have a job already waiting for them back home on the farm an don't need to apply anywhere. THAT'S job security.

GERALD NAUGHTON
2/3/2012 10:40:35 PM
Enjoyed your post, but I believe the "useless" designation is attached to Ag degrees (as with Culinary and many others) because if you want to farm, you'll learn the most and be more successful after four years of actually farming as opposed to spending the same years at college. Plus, you won't spend or accumulate $80,000 of debt. An 80k debt burden will have more impact on the ability to make principled, ethical decisions than a college course. Cheers!







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