Fresno State agriculture students have a 1,000-acre agricultural laboratory to produce fresh fruit, vegetables, livestock, nuts, premium wines and dairy products. But with Fresno’s rich farming community, ag students can also work as interns or part-time employees at the many ranches, dairies, farms and ag businesses in the area.
“I’ve done a few internships. One I’ve just finished was at Zacky Farms,” Elizabeth Sturges, senior in animal science, said. “Because the ag community is so tightknit, a lot of the professors have worked or still are working in the industry, so they’re able to place their students where they think they’d fit.”
The Central Valley is the largest agricultural region in terms of value of production in the United States.
“You have three of the top five counties for value of agriculture in the U.S. here in the Valley,” Jordan School of Agriculture Dean Charles Boyer said. “With so much agriculture, Fresno State ag students can find work in their chosen field even before their senior year.”
Ag graduates are not limited to employment solely in the Central Valley. Though she held various internships during her college career, 2011 graduate Valarie Taylor decided to leave the Central Valley upon graduation.
“I am currently located in Waco, Texas. I work in the poultry industry,” Taylor said. “It was really hard to get a position. It took me a long time and a lot of hunting to get one.”
But when asked about how “hard” it was, Taylor revealed that she was only out of work a total of nine days, as she was working part time in the industry here in the Valley while completing her final semester in spring of 2011. She flew to Texas three days after graduation, interviewed and then took the position.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities for work in the Central Valley,” Taylor said. “For me, personally, I wanted to get away, experience something different and grow. Over here in the South things are run a little different. I like it here. Things are different but I’m definitely getting used to it.”
The U.S Department of Agriculture report on employment opportunities from college graduates for 2010-2015 projects 5 percent growth compared to the 2005-2010 span for graduates with expertise in agricultural and food systems, though some areas will have more than enough graduates.
This projected competition and the desire to specialize has caused some to continue and go for their Master’s.
“I may go back and get my credential and teach,” Laura Barnes, a Grad student in animal science and currently herdsman at the swine unit, said.
Ag students can rely on the industry contacts that come just from being part of the program when deciding what area to focus their Master’s on.
“I’d originally planned on going back and getting a Master’s in science,” Sturges, said. “But after talking with people that work in the industry, I got feedback that my education would be even more valuable to the industry if I went on and got the business administration Master’s.”
The tight bond between the farm industry and the university makes for a rich, hands-on experience for agriculture students.
“Most are working or volunteering at the units like the cattle unit on campus and people in industry will come,” said meat science student Ben Vanderhoof. “We do a lot of fundraising and dinners with the industry so we’ve already made those ties.”
The bottom line for freshman ag major Tino Rossi, who just won the American Farm Bureau Federation’s collegiate Discussion Meet, was Fresno State’s teachers and its location.
“My logic was if I am going to study agriculture I should do so in the most prosperous agricultural area in the world,” said Rossi.
“For the most part, the job opportunities in the field remain strong,” said Boyer. “Agriculture is one of the strong parts of the economy right now.”