Why Study Agriculture?
"When I was a student and professor in agriculture, I had no immediate idea how this background would play into the many areas that it has during my career," says Kennedy Gauger.
"Initially, I was driven by areas of science that were practical and interesting. I have always been focused on applied microbiology and agriculture," he notes. "Although I recognize that science for the sake of science has its place and must be part of our society's progress, agricultural science has always had the "applied" aspect that I have found motivating.
"Agriculture has been "global" much longer than some of the other intellectual endeavors in our society. Mechanized agriculture has facilitated the feeding of many people unable to feed themselves well beyond the borders of the U.S. We produce massive volumes of grain and ship them overseas for others to use. Some of these grains are used to feed livestock; other grain, such as soybeans, is used as a feedstock for fermentation to produce foods such as tofu, tempeh, miso, and soy sauce. There are many others, and these products provide protein in the diets of people who would otherwise get insufficient protein in their diets. This example of agricultural grain production provides products that come back to the U.S. and that are distributed across the globe."
Similar examples can be found in the form of other leguminous crops, he says.
"Other things are global such as some of the microorganisms that cause disease in livestock and other animals. As an industrial country, we have the capability and, at some level, the obligation to learn how to manage or eliminate these diseases."
Here are comments Kennedy Gauger would make to students considering an agricultural career.
"The marketplace is asking for other ways to produce our food with less use of antibiotics and chemicals. How will we do this? How will we increase the carrying capacity of the lands so more livestock can be grass fed? How can we keep the soil charged with minerals and organic components to support production of healthy crops? What compromises will the consumer need to make to have this type of marketplace at an acceptable cost and how will we communicate to the consumer what these tradeoffs are?"
"To meet these challenges, students need to expand their education and become cross-trained in other areas such as technology, economics, and global politics. With continued globalization, we also need to learn the languages of others who don’t speak English. Our future interactions will surely expand in China, in the Middle East, in Africa, and in the former Soviet Union countries (e.g., Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe). To be most effective in these interactions, we need to understand more about the cultures of these people. A direct way to do that and to show respect for these people is to learn to speak with them in their languages. Learn at least one of Mandarin or Arabic or Swahili or Russian or others as well, if you can."
"Most of all, don’t lose your curiosity or your passion for your interests and share that curiosity and passion with other people using face-to-face or verbal communication skills whenever possible. Electronic communications have their place; however much more can be accomplished face-to-face where both audible and nonverbal queues can be observed and conveyed."