What do you think of when you hear the word “agriculture?”
Common answers to this question are:
These are all reasonable and understandable answers. But, today, there is more to agriculture than crops. In turn, agriculture-related majors encompass much more than farming practices and suitable conditions for certain crops.
While farming obviously remains at the heart of agriculture, the field of agriculture has grown to encompass much more than crops and farm animals.
According to the Ag Day website, 22 million Americans work in agriculture related fields, and only ten percent are involved in traditional farming.
Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science is often shortened to the “College of Ag.” Though unintentional, this coincidentally leaves out two important aspects of agriculture: food and environmental sciences. This may sound silly, but it is not necessarily always implied that subjects such as nutrition and environmental management are significant in the field of agriculture.
The College of Ag offers a variety of majors, ranging from agricultural engineering to wine and viticulture. While these majors are individualistic, they are simultaneously deeply interconnected.
I, personally, am an environmental management and protection major. And I have never put my arm in a cow or learned about animal physiology like many animal science majors have. I have never toured a vineyard, taken a wine-making class, or tasted wine in class like many wine and viticulture majors have. I have never taken an entire course on human nutrient metabolism, made croissants in class, or learned about properties of food like many food science and nutrition majors have.
But I have taken soil samples. I have stood in the middle of a stream with waders on to measure streamflow. I have walked through Poly Canyon learning about different tree species. I have learned to write environmental assessment reports and ecosystem management plans. Like most of the programs offered at Cal Poly, the environmental management and protection program is quite interdisciplinary. We are provided with a wide background in biological and physical sciences while we learn about the social, economic and political aspects of environmental management.
Because of their educational backgrounds, agriculture students have widely different answers than others when asked what comes to mind when they hear the word “agriculture.” Natasha Bole, nutrition major, thought of “organic produce” and “hard workers.” Lexi Ongman, Environmental Management and Protection major, answered, “I think of responsibly guiding the uses of environmental resources.”
As individualistic as they are, the majors are interdisciplinary and interconnected. We all have in common the purpose of the College of Ag, which is preparing Ag students to deal with the challenges of sustainable agriculture.
Agriculture students do more than farm: they are helping to build a sustainable future.