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The benefits of agricultural employment
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While the title may sound a bit dry, the topic really isn’t. This past Tuesday, the Barton Community College’s Agriculture Program held its fall Ag Advisory Board meeting. This is a chance for the Ag Program to touch base with the members of the Ag industry and area educators who support the program, inform them as to what’s happening, what’s new, and maybe most importantly what’s on their minds. What can we do better? What is new out there we should be aware of? What are we missing? How can we address the concerns of the industry?
A concern shared by one member turns out to be a source of frustration for many in the group. A concern we were asked to address if we could. It involved attracting and keeping quality employees especially those under age thirty-five or so. Either potential employees thought the wage was too low or after taking the job they would leave for a higher wage. Their frustration is that they can’t get these potential or actual employees to understand they need to look at the total compensation package to see what they are truly earning and the higher paying job typically had minimal or no benefits such as vacation, sick leave, retirement plans, and healthcare. Also in many cases these jobs were less secure and employment fluctuates with price and other factors so while the money is good, it is often not consistent.
We were asked to see what we can do to help students understand the real value of benefits and for students to understand the value of the total compensation package. And we will work on this. It is certainly understandable for young men and women to not value items such as retirement plans and healthcare as the need for those seem far off in the distant future. However, there are other nonmonetary benefits to working in agriculture such as:
• Depending on your career in agriculture, you are able to spend your time outside with crops, livestock, or both.
• Your often work with minimal supervision or as your own “boss” and are responsible for yourself.
• Satisfaction in caring for and producing something of value that is essential for people in their lives such as food, fiber, and fuel.
• Being able to earn and grow in your agricultural career based on how motivated you are and how hard you wish to work.
• Finally something that may sound a bit hokey but for many there is something that draws people in when they can start with a seed, or a calf, whatever it may be, and nurture it to the stage where it is of value. There is a pride of ownership for many in the agriculture industry from this.
All of this also leads to a final thought. How many individuals of working age would do well and prosper in agricultural career who have never considered it. So in addition to the challenge of employees understanding total compensation, we have a large group of individuals unaware of the possible careers in agriculture.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.