I am considering transferring to a university, most likely Iowa State if it happens, when I get done with my two years at the junior college I'm attending now for crop production management. My question is, would it be worth it? I know a lot of people will reply to this with an instant yes without considering certain situations, so let me try to explain myself. We are currently only farming around 700-800 acres of all row crop and we don't own anything besides about 200 acres of that. So basically when I get done with school, I'll be somewhat "starting" my business. And we all know how tough that is to do these days. When I mention to a lot of farmers that I doubt I will transfer, none of them have really jumped in and said you should do it, so I still don't know. So would it be worth it to spend the money all to not be fully guaranteed a full time farming career? Thanks for any input.
So would it be worth it to spend the money all to not be fully guaranteed a full time farming career?
That last statement is exactly why you should continue your education at a university and get a bachelors degree at the least. You are not guaranteed a full time farming career. So if the farm does not make it, or you cannot make enough to make a living what are you going to do with associate degree. Yes you can get a few jobs working on farms or a local coop, but you will still be limited by salary potential. Since you are interested in crop production, an agronomy degree might be a fit for you. Its very broad that can expand your potential for jobs in many areas, many of them being high salary and with a chance of moving up.
I fully agree with Morgan. I graduated with a 4 year degree from NDSU with an agricultural economics major. Like Morgan said, there is no such thing as a guarantee to have a full time farming career. That is the same for the beginning farmer and the generational farmer. However, the more education you have the greater your chances are of making the connections and decision making ability to have a full time farming career. I still refer to my teachers on a regular basis even 2 years out of college. I hope these will be lifelong connections. Nobody can know everything about everything. A good business man knows enough about everything to find somebody who knows everything about something. These connections are vital, and if the cards fall wrong and farming doesn’t work you can then use your degree to get a different job and maybe make a run at it again later in life.
I'm in a very similar situation as what you are. My dad farms about 850 acres in Northwest Ohio, 150 of which is owned by our family. It's a pretty good size to support my family, but not large enough to support me full-time. So, in order to eventually return to the farm, we will need to increase our revenue. But farming more land is not the only way to do that, it can also be accomplished through better management. Now, I'm sure that like most farmers, you and your family do a good job at managing your farm, but there is always room for improvement.
For example, I'm currently a sophomore at Ohio State. Since I've been in college, our family has purchased precision farming equipment with the capability of applying variable rate fertilizer. So, I've been using what I've been learning in my soil science and crop science classes to be able to make fertilizer recommendations for our farm. And the best part is, I can compile the recommendations and email the prescription files to my dad. So I'm still "farming" even though I spend most of my time 135 miles from home. Even in our first year, this technology has reduced our input costs and we expect it to improve our yields, increasing our revenue without adding a single acre.
In addition to being a back-up plan as some of the others have written, an education can allow you to improve the management of your farm. This can eventually open up the door for you to return sooner, without requiring the farm to grow significantly. I can't tell you what's best for you, but I hope that this offers insight as you make your decision. Best of luck in whichever path you choose!
We both have BS degrees (from Iowa State even!) and both are home on the farm. Neither of us would trade in that experience to learn, experience to network, and experience to have fun. Through our education we learned a lot of skills, programs and ideas to bring back to the farm. With the increase in technology in farming today, a degree that helps you better understand it will help you be on the top of your game.
If you decide to go to Iowa State, visit with the people with both the Beginning Farmer Center and the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative. The Beginning Farmer Center has a program called "Ag Link." We participated in this our junior year. It is a chance for you to talk and walk through several things when joining the family farm operation.
Well thanks for the info guys. I would really love to but it's all going to depend on how much money I can get saved by then. I will definitely be looking into it in the future.