The drought monitor report as of Tuesday, April 25 indicates continued expansion of exceptional drought further east and along the southern counties. The rains this week don’t factor into this report, however, with the severity of the drought in Western Kansas it helps but we are still exceptionally short of soil moisture. It will take 12 to 15 inches over six weeks or so to eliminate the drought. The six to 10-day outlook (May 2 to 6) indicates a 33 to 40% chance of leaning to above normal temperatures and near normal precipitation. The eight to 14-day outlook (May 4 to 10) indicates a 40 to 50% chance of leaning to above normal temperatures and a 33 to 40% chance of leaning to above normal precipitation.
Today, May 1st is just two days away. We are heading into high school and college graduation season. College graduates at Barton are either heading off to a four-year school or into the work force. The same goes for high school graduates. One area with a significant need for qualified employees is the agricultural sector of our economy. From farms and ranches to co-ops, marketing to crop protection, truckers and scale technicians, there is a chronic shortage of workers. These are good careers with competitive wages, benefits, and job security. The industry is short enough on employees they are hiring people with no agriculture background and training them from scratch. They would prefer to hire employees with some training and skill level. That’s where institutions like Barton Community College and other two-year and four-year schools come into the picture.
Some of these careers do require four-year and, in some cases, graduate degrees, however, many, if not most, only require a certificate or two-year degree. Some certificates are completed in only one semester while others take two. Tuition at community colleges is much lower than four-year schools and many employers will work around student schedules while employed. Some will reimburse students for successfully completed classes. For example, Barton offers certificates/standalone programs for CDL, Scale Technician, Welding, and Crop Protection. Two-year degrees include Crop Protection, Ag. Business Management, Agronomy, and Agriculture.
One of the challenges these career paths face is public perception and awareness. Much of the potential workforce didn’t grow up on a farm. Many are unaware of potential careers in agriculture. There is a stereotype of what the industry is and most are unaware of how high-tech mush of the industry is. People not involved or having been raised in the industry think that only “farm kids” are wanted. This is simply not accurate. The industry wants motivated individuals with good work ethics, a willingness to learn, are intelligent, and possess basic essential skills.
One last misconception that cuts both ways. These industries aren’t concerned about your age or gender. Nontraditional students are as desired as twenty-one-year old’s. Women are an ever increasing segment of all sectors in the industry.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207, or firstname.lastname@example.org.