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DISCUSS: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Ag career fairs like this one are a great way for young people to gain exposure to the wide diversity of career paths the agriculture sector provides.
Date Posted: December 22, 2021

Twenty-five to thirty years ago students most likely could give you one or two jobs they were considering. The jobs were prob­ably similar to ones held by family mem­bers or prominent industries/businesses within a 30-mile radius of their hometown.

In 2021, if you ask a middle or high school student “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would bet, because it happens to me at career fairs and in classrooms, the student would answer, “I don’t know.”

Your gut reaction to their answer may be one of a couple thoughts:

“They lack motivation to figure out what they want to do with their life,”

“Schools need to do a better job of show­casing careers for these students,”

“They’re young, they still have lots of time to figure out what type of job is best for them,”

“If we could figure out what they like to do, maybe we can figure out what type of job they’d enjoy.”

In today’s workforce, it’s becoming more the norm to work remotely rather than commute to a brick and mortar office. Schedules are flexible to allow individuals to take two hours during the day for a doc­tor’s appointment and work on their phone in the waiting room without using time off. These factors that many see as positives have blurred the line between work life and home life; thus, individuals are seeking jobs that offer personal fulfillment.

The farmer has been doing this since, well, forever. They get up before dawn to get chores done, commute all over the county to take care of tasks, answer phone calls on the road in between stops, take a couple hours off to go watch a child’s musical program at school, and get back in the tractor to finish a field or check on a calf born that afternoon.

And as the farmer’s tasks and equipment have evolved and changed, so have the ca­reers within any industry. Today, there are jobs that didn’t even exist ten, five, or even two years ago. To ask a student what they want to be when they grow up is not even a fair question anymore because none of us know what careers will be available to them when they do enter the job market.

Now ask a student, “What do you love to do in your free time?” or what elective class they would like to fill their school schedule with and watch their eyes shine. They will give you insight into their interests, pas­sions, and natural skill sets. It’s our job to then help them explore how those inter­ests, passions, and natural skill sets can be used in a future career. For those of us in agriculture, it would be great to show them how they could Be Agriculture.

Answers could range from:

“I love drawing so I’d like to be in art class.” They could Be Agriculture by com­municating the message of agriculture through graphics, web design, marketing and public relations.

“I’ve always enjoyed working in the cafete­ria during lunches.” Show them how they could Be Agriculture by preparing meals as a chef, connecting the farm to the table as a supply chain manager, or open up their own meat processing facility.

“My favorite thing to do after school is working with robotics team.” Help a student see those hours of building Lego kits and Erector Sets can become their career as a mechanic, welder, equipment operator, or mechanical engineer.

“I play softball year-round.” Awesome! In­troduce them to turf grass management and agronomy. If the major leagues don’t recruit them, they can always be a part of the team by managing the grounds!

“Play video games.” Invite the students to see and experience the technology within your tractor cab. They may not un­derstand agriculture yet, but they bring a skill set that's needed.

With over 58,000 job posting a year, on average, within the agriculture, food and nat­ural resources sector, there has never been a better time to pursue a career within this field. It’s up to us to reframe our questions to help children of all ages understand how they can apply their interests, passions, and natural skill sets within an amazing career path when they choose to Be Agriculture.


  1. Explain the changes you’ve seen within agriculture careers.
  2. Discuss the pros and cons of recruiting students of all interests and backgrounds to seek careers in agriculture.
  3. What does our county Farm Bureau currently do to help students connect with careers in agriculture?
  4. List two ways our county Farm Bureau could specifically help show students how their interests, passions, and natural skills sets could Be Agriculture.
  5. What resources are needed to help you accomplish question number 4?

Submit your responses:

  • EMAIL: [email protected]
  • MAIL TO: MFB Community Group Discussion Topic Responses, ATTN: Michelle Joseph, 7373 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI 48917
  • Please include your name and CAG affiliation!