Commentary: Yahoo, please don’t mess with the goat ropers

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Ag folks are generally good-natured about being…well, aggies. And there are lots of us from ag schools across the country that have heard all the aggie jokes. Texas A&M students are proudly known as the Aggies. At Kansas State University the shops, bars and restaurants close to campus are in an area called Aggieville.

Why, even the football game between Kansas State and Iowa State is referred to as “Farmageddon!”

That’s right, poking fun at aggies is not just reserved for students attending those button-down universities on the coasts. Even us aggies enjoy a good aggie joke. When I was in college – “back in the day,” as they say now – those of us in the “boots-and-jeans crowd” were often, sometimes affectionately, called “goat ropers.” We may not have ever roped a goat, but most of us looked like the type of person you might recruit if you needed a goat roped.

A true aggie, however, – or goat roper, if you prefer – requires more than just looking the part. An aggie either has some tie to a farm or ranch, or they aspire to work in an agricultural related profession and they are attending a college that will help launch such a career path. And that’s where we draw the line. Call us aggies, mock our clothes or our quaint manners such as “Yes, ma’am,” and “No, ma’am,” but don’t criticize our chosen profession. And don’t do it with your mouth full.

That’s how most of us feel about the mostly-useless and inaccurate story that was posted on Yahoo News’ homepage yesterday: “College Majors That Are Useless.” Of the top five “useless” majors, three of them are from the ag college.

Yahoo’s list of five useless degrees, in order: agriculture, fashion design, theater, animal science and horticulture.

Indeed, so many aggies had a burr under their saddle blanket about Yahoo’s story that a Facebook page – “I studied agriculture and I have a job” – was up by midday.

Why Yahoo chose to list the broad category of agriculture separate from more specific degrees indicates to those better-informed that the list is mostly worthless, but the inclusion of the specific “animal science” is just flat wrong. Indeed, sources from a handful of Midwest ag schools told Drovers/CattleNetwork enrollment in animal science is up, and more than 90 percent of animal science graduates find jobs.

Maynard Hogberg, chair of the Iowa State University animal science department, said, “Enrollment in animal science at Iowa State has set new records for the past six years. Over 95 percent of our recent graduates have found jobs, and the average starting salary exceeded $38,000 per year.”

In an effort to learn how to improve the animal science curriculum at Iowa State and better serve students, a survey of graduates from 2004 to 2009 was conducted by professor Steve Lonergan. The study found “a diverse group of opportunities available for our graduates,” he says.

Jobs listed by those graduates include the following:

Commodity Group
Companion Animal Management
Equine Management
Graduate School in Animal Sciences
Human Medicine Research
Livestock and Poultry Genetics
Livestock Production and Management
Meat, Egg or Dairy food processing
Sales of feed, equipment or pharmaceuticals
Sales of livestock genetics
Seed Sales
Veterinary Assistant
Veterinary School

And there are many more jobs for those with degrees other than animal science. Just check out the postings on the Facebook page “I studied agriculture and I have a job.” Yahoo didn’t make many ag friends with their story, but it sure seemed to rally the aggies around the industry that feeds America and the world.

Here’s a sampling of the Facebook posts:

From Sara Jane: “I haven’t even graduated yet with my degree in agriculture and I’ve already accepted a position with a major seed company. Take that, Yahoo!”

From Lacey: “I have a degree in Agricultural Systems and Environment and am currently the Assistant Winemaker for a family owned winery in CA.”

From Alissa: “I have Agriculture Business and Agriculture Economics bachelors degrees from South Dakota State University and worked in my chosen field of Agriculture Finance directly after receiving my degrees.”

From Amanda: “I have a degree from Michigan State University in Agriscience with concentrations in Education and Communications. While in school I had six internships, all in agriculture. Within three weeks of graduation, I had six - count 'em, SIX - job offers. I now work for an integrated marketing agency in Minneapolis, working on a multi-million dollar client in the agriculture industry. I'd say my degree was pretty darn useful.”

Yahoo, please don’t mess with the goat ropers!

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Joel Alderete    
NM  |  January, 20, 2012 at 08:52 AM

And on the same day. This was posted, saying how bright the future for Ag students look!

Jim Clark    
Bakersfield  |  January, 20, 2012 at 08:57 AM

Yahoo, besides being an arrogant Liberal Yellow Journalistic News agency, has a problem telling the truth about anything, News, Facts, World opinion etc, so I wouldn,t worry much about their opinion on College. It seems with their falling popularity they are canning some of the real losers in their Higher up staff.

oak ridge, tennessee  |  January, 20, 2012 at 08:59 AM

don't get so riled, 75% of the country or more has not idea where food even comes from, aggies do. knowelege is power, keep them stupid!!!!!

kansas  |  January, 20, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Hey! I have a degree in English too, but I've made my living in Agriculture (farming, ranching and providing manufactured products for both) for the last 35 years. It's not about a degreee, it's about our modern society and culture that has become willfully ignorant as it has urbanized. We in Ag have failed to keep the other 99% of society in-the-loop about where food comes from. Our failure left a void that's been filled by PETA, Sierra Club and the putrid "foodies" and "greens" of our world.

NC  |  January, 20, 2012 at 09:09 AM

Just proves what I have said all along - "if you want to be in Ag you better love it". I didn't see the Yahoo artice as derogatory and I think the case could be made that Ag is actually a noble profession, that is unless your sole focus is money.

ohio  |  January, 20, 2012 at 03:05 PM

we serve the the greatest purpose to soicety and are valued the least

Michael E. Dikeman, Professor    
Kansas State University  |  January, 20, 2012 at 09:29 AM

• The world’s population is growing at a rapid rate and projections are that food production will have to double by the year 2050! Livestock production is critical to food security and livelihood of the world’s population according to Joyce Turk, Bureau of Food Security, U.S. AID. She further states that the livestock sector globally employs 1.3 billion people, either directly or indirectly, and responsible for up to 50% of global agriculture GDP. A degree in Animal Sciences prepares students for employment ranging from livestock production and management to meat and dairy food processing. Numerous land grant universities are experience record high enrollment numbers in Animal and Food Sciences. Animal Science majors graduate with various combinations of skills in livestock, meat, and dairy food evaluation; nutrition; animal reproduction; genetics; oral and communication skills; meat and dairy food processing; internships; undergraduate research; study abroad; biotechnology; academic competition teams; agribusiness courses; and leadership development through extracurricular activities. Meat and dairy food production and processing provides employment opportunities, either directly or indirectly, related to the growing demand for food products from animals both in the U.S. and globally. Meat and dairy food inspectors, DNA laboratory technologists, pharmaceutical sales, packaging systems, livestock farm managers, nutrition consultants, new product development, government employment, agriculture communications, animal health, and food service operation are examples of the rapidly increasing complexity and range of employment opportunities in production and processing of food products from animals.

Dr. Sabrina Tuttle    
San Carlos Apache Reservation, AZ  |  January, 20, 2012 at 11:02 AM

I've never found my M.S. in Animal Science useless. I graduated in 1996 and went to work with the Seminole Tribe of Florida as an extension agent. After that I got my doctorate in Agricultural Education, and found a job with the San Carlos Apache Reservation as an extension agent. I also hold an affiliate Assistant Professor position with the Department of Agricultural Education at University of Arizona. There are both large and small scale agriculture in both of these states, with cattle, cotton, and horticultural crops in Arizona, and cattle, sugarcane, horticultural crops, and citrus in Florida. We also work teaching youth about gardening and nutrition, very important due to the high rate of obesity present in the U.S. 4-H livestock and horse projects also teach youth responsibility and leadership. So much for a useless degree!

Denver  |  January, 20, 2012 at 09:45 AM

That Yahoo article went around the office here (we're a weekly beef newspaper) and we all had a good rage/laugh about it. My boss had a laugh at me for having co-majored in philosophy in undergrad. And for as much as I enjoyed and benefited from my phil program, I willingly admit that philosophy should rank on that list when employment opportunities are considered. A double-major in journalism and then masters in the same, plus an interest in ag, made me employable in the ag journalism area. So... thank you ag! Yahoo needs to do better research.

Wisconsin  |  January, 20, 2012 at 09:57 AM

A quick turn around the internet shows that the expert source for their story is a guy with a PhD in English that has spent his professional life doing consulting in another field....

oh  |  January, 20, 2012 at 03:09 PM

michael pollen is considered a food expert, with no ag education or background

NC  |  January, 20, 2012 at 10:35 AM

So, who's going to feed the 5 billion souls of the world today or the 7 billions in the near future if we keep thinking as Yahoo! does ?

Howard Waller    
Webbers Falls, OK  |  January, 20, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Wow a starting salary of $30,000! That figures out to about $14.40/hour using a 40 hour week. When was the last time anyone in the ag business worked 40 hours in a week, 60 maybe and in every kind of crappy weather? I'm in it because I retired from a $27/hour job with real benefits but I sure didn't encourage my kid to get into the ag business although after watching me work for 20 years that didn't take much.

Kansas  |  January, 20, 2012 at 11:16 AM

Howard: The article said $38,000, not $30,000, and that computes to over $18 per hour. And the article said that was a STARTING salary. Not many 22-year-olds are going to land a starter job that pays $60,000 a year.

tx  |  January, 20, 2012 at 11:16 AM

What if all the ag industries went on strike like a union for about two or three weeks, then maybe we could get a little respect for the ag industry. We feed and clothe the world. If everyone from farmers to ranchers and everyone associated with ag and ag products stopped for just one day the impacts would be felt world wide.

Manhattan, Kan.  |  January, 20, 2012 at 11:38 AM

Contact the author of the article, Terence Loose, or the source, Laurence Shatkin and educate them with facts. They may be poor reporters, but they will not improve if we only comment in agriculture industry audiences. Check this letter out from an ag student:

Denver  |  January, 20, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Good call CG. Preaching to the choir accomplishes nothing outside of said choir.

Bill Stainbrook    
Sacramento, CA  |  January, 20, 2012 at 05:10 PM

My daughter graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Animal Science. She graduated last March and has a full time position with the City of Clovis, CA. She was so impressive with her education, the city broke ranks and choose her education over experience to upgrade their animal services operation. Thank goodness for knowledge, educated agriculture students to keep americas life blood alive.

Phil Moshell    
Georgia  |  January, 20, 2012 at 07:28 PM

What I find to be totally worthless are those Yahoo "most" or "best" lists. They do qualify for "Best Way to Totally Waste 30 Seconds".

J. Huffine    
Murfreesboro, TN  |  January, 20, 2012 at 09:51 PM

The Yahoo articles author is from California, studied TV and Film at UCLA. He landed his presitgious Yahoo post in 2011 after three years as a movie analyst position with NetFlix. To add creditability to his resume, he has lived in Hawaii for the last 10 years. I hope this sheds some light on the tremendous knowledge that this "award winning" and high profile journalist brings to the table to unearth these incredible pearls of knowledge about our industry. Rember the old saying"a surfer dude always knows ag..."

USA  |  January, 21, 2012 at 01:00 PM

I saw one young lady on TV who said she was headed to Texas A & M to get a degree in Animal Justice. If true, that does not sound very good. In fact, I associate social justice to the communist movement. Someone needs to compare the teachings of Animal Justice and to the teachings of Karl Marx and note any similarities such as making villians of property owners by use of ridiculous lies, total disregard of historic rights and law of private property ownership, advocatiing the creation of public communal rights in other peoples' property. Pushing the long ago discredited notion of human-like consciousness variously known as sentience or sapience to purportedly explain animal behavior is another warning sign of animal liberation. Animal liberation's central tenet is human-like consciousness in animals. Animal liberation will lead to the end of vast American job and wealth creation that comes from the private development of our natural resources in animals.

Cathie Lavis, Associate Professor    
Kansas State University  |  January, 22, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Graduates from our Kansas State University Horticultural program typically have a number of job offers prior to graduation. There is high demand in the Green Industry for highly trained and skilled Horticulturists. Here are just a few examples of the careers our graduates will enter into: vegetable and fruit production (how to we feed a growing population without Aggies?); landscape design and management, including professionals in the tree care industry (who are you going to call after a storm when there is a tree on your house?); and our golf and sports turf management students superintend the facilities countless people seek out for leisure activities, to reduce stress, to enjoy family and to exercise. Someone must maintain our urban trees--consider the value of trees to our urban environments: trees reduce CO2 levels by storing carbon in roots and trunk, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Trees help to reduce the urban heat island effect. Trees provide shade, thereby keeping street and building surfaces cooler. Trees reduced surface runoff of water from storms, reduce soil erosion and sedimentation of streams, increase ground water recharge that is significantly reduced by paving, and reduce the amounts of chemicals transported to streams and other water supplies and greatly reduced wind erosion of soil. We are the Real Green Industry and without Aggies the world would not only be hunger but void of the environmental splendor we Aggies contribute to our urban landscapes!

John Barlow    
central Texas  |  January, 24, 2012 at 01:51 AM

He forgot the two most important jobs in this country... Farmer and Rancher. Without these two no one would be eating.

IL.  |  January, 26, 2012 at 08:42 AM

my daughters got ag degrees, Yes at 26 yrs. old making 50,000 + a year with a truck to drive, health, dental, Plus bonus for performance. Truck saves her $6,000 a year just in fuel alone. She was offered a job before going into college for her Aggie degree. The Aggie degree doubled her pay and then some. What can you say for a woman who can do it All ? Her husband just has to set back and drink beer. 26 years old - with 750 acres - with Aggie job - Well Lets just say she's a Dam Good Sales person ! A lot of farmers turn heads when they see her spreading fertilizer & lime, applying chemicals, then showing up to sell more. All I here is : I want your daughter to do the work, She does a Dam good Job ! And she know her book work. If there a problem she gets it right. GO AGGIES ! Never did like Yahoo

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