GA needs students to pursue agricultural careers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

GA needs students to pursue agricultural careers

August 22, 2007

Tifton-  Agriculture is Georgia's top industry, but the state isn't producing enough graduates to fill all the agri-business jobs.

The University of Georgia's Ag school dean says there are seven jobs in poultry and five jobs in the horticultural industry for every student. UGA's Tifton campus may be able to help by offering more programs and attracting students, especially transfers from ABAC.

The way a field is farmed has dramatically changed in the last five years and Georgia isn't producing enough agricultural graduates to keep up with the changing industry.

"We've struggled to get students to come into agriculture because there was a mental image of agriculture being a farmer in bib overhauls and a straw hat standing in a field, but it's not that way at all anymore, agriculture is very high tech," said Steve Brown, UGA Tifton Interim Assistant Dean.

Students at UGA's Tifton Experiment Station know about high tech. All work on laptops and are helping to develop prototypes like this Row-bot Spider sprayer. It's run by a laptop, uses wireless Internet and an antenna, and can be run by a professor in Australia.

"Because we have that base of research that's been going on here, it's a great opportunity for our students to come in and learn what's going on," said Brown.

While the Tifton campus only offers two undergraduate and two masters degrees they're looking to expand those programs. They've stepped up acceptance of students who transfer from other schools in an effort to grow more agricultural graduates.

"We really recruit from the transfer students, meaning we visit colleges such as ABAC and other colleges in this area with student who are interested in the sciences and biology type majors," said Erin Womack, UGA Tifton Academic Programs Coordinator.

The food supply is a fragile chain and an interruption could prove tragic, especially when farmers are faced with interruptions like they saw this year in the form of a drought.

"There's a lot of technology being developed right here on this campus that will help farmers deal with that to help farms know how to get the most out of their water resources that they have," said Brown.

Keeping the food supply in good shape and growing more agricultural students to keep up with future research.

Georgia is also losing two-thirds of its Ag students to out of state schools, and only half of them return to Georgia to pursue careers.

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