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Agricultural jobs are plentiful for those seeking work

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(The Center Square) – Jobs in agriculture are plentiful. The industry just needs workers.

Individuals ranging in age from 18 to 68 can find good-paying jobs in the ag industry, said Bill Harmon, agronomy professor with Lincoln Land Community College.

“These are good paying jobs. We are no longer training students for $10 an hour jobs where you sweat all day. We have students who start in the mid-50s, $50,000 a year or more, with a 2-year college degree,” Harmon told The Center Square. “That’s a pretty good salary for a beginner.”

Under enrollment in agricultural classes has been a problem for years now.

“We have not produced enough graduates from the community college and the university level to meet the number of jobs that are available in all areas of agriculture,” Harmon said.

He listed animal science, agronomy, research, sales, technology and horticulture as examples of fields that prepare people for ag jobs. Community colleges have programs for people with interests that are all over the map, he said. Harmon tells students he can find them a program if they tell him what they enjoy doing.

The biggest drawback for community colleges that are trying to fill their ag classes is lack of familiarity with agriculture.

“Agriculture doesn’t care if you grew up on a farm or if you have never seen a chicken or a corn plant in your life,” Harmon said. “If someone has the desire to learn and they want to work and they want a job that is rewarding, consider agriculture.”

For people who want to be outdoors or to work with equipment, community colleges have programs for them.

“There are programs where people can get ready to be a custom applicator, putting on fertilizers … scouting and identifying pests in field crops,” Harmon said.

Agriculture needs people to run and service self-driving tractors and new farm equipment. The average age of an Illinois farmer is 57 years old. Some of those farmers like technology but a lot of them would just as soon hire an assistant who is tech savvy, Harmon said.

“In our technology and equipment classes, we teach how to operate drone software and collect data with aerial platforms,” he said.

Students can learn how to fly drones, starting out on flight simulators.

“Eventually they’ll test for their FAA pilot’s license for [unmanned aerial vehicles],” Harmon said.

Lincoln Land has a $25,000 drone that advanced students use for seed spreading and fertilizer, he said.

“They are finding more and more uses for that kind of technology all the time,” Harmon said.

There are also job opportunities in the hemp and cannabis industry.

“If students want to get into the cannabis side, recreational or medicinal, we can show them how to raise those crops,” he said. “They will get the skills to work in a production facility. We can show them how to produce the highest quality crop.”

For people who like science, there are classes focused on animals, crops and soil. If someone is interested in animal nutrition and genetics, there are companies looking to hire.

“Typically those are bachelor’s degree jobs but companies can’t find enough qualified graduates,” Harmon said.

Start at the community college and companies will be willing to train you.

Make an appointment to talk to an agriculture advisor, Harmon advised. At Lincoln Land, advisors are called “success coaches,” he said.

“We help students select the right classes so they don’t waste their time,” Harmon said.

It doesn’t cost anything to see an advisor. Community colleges welcome those conversations.

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