Enrollment in the ag college at Iowa State University has reached its highest peak in more than three decades. Wendy Wintersteen, dean of I.S.U.’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, says unlike most of the national economy, demand for workers in the many fields of agriculture is very robust.

“Five years or so ago, the industries in the state came to us and said we were not producing enough graduates for them to employ,” Wintersteen says. “As we looked at the growing needs, not just in Iowa but the nation and the world, we knew we had to do a better job of helping students understand the diversity of opportunities and the sciences of agriculture.”

She says they’re succeeding, as agriculture is wide-ranging in scope. “Whether it’s about farming or it’s about genetics or microbiology or animal science, the opportunities are really limitless,” Wintersteen says. Undergraduate enrollment in the I.S.U. ag college climbed to 3,585 students this fall, hitting a 34-year high.

She says it is part of a dedicated effort to attract more young people to careers in ag. According to Wintersteen, any of the big issues facing the world have solutions rooted in agriculture. “Whether it’s food production, whether it’s fuel, whether it’s environmental and water quality concerns, you pick a topic that we need to be addressing in this country and the basis of the science and technology is really coming from agriculture and associated engineering disciplines,” she says.

Representatives from 175 companies were in Ames last week for an Agriculture Career Fair, which Wintersteen says resulted in 525 individual interviews. The Earth’s population is expected to exceed seven-billion this month and may reach nine-billion by 2050. Experts say food production must increase by 70-percent in the next four decades to meet the needs of that population.

By Dan Skelton, KICD, Spencer