Want to work in agriculture but farm life is maybe not for you? Well, right now, the largest number of open positions in agriculture is actually in cities, and science backgrounds are especially in demand. Kate Grumke of Harvest Public Media reports on a new crop of ag jobs.
KATE GRUMKE, BYLINE: A parking lot with office buildings in suburban St. Louis is also lined with something a bit out of character – rows of huge greenhouses. This is the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a research institute devoted to studying plants. In a lab in one of the buildings on the campus, people are sitting at stations lined with trays of bacteria cultures. You can hear the hum of freezers and the buzz of a labeler. They’re working on a bacterial product for plants used in agriculture.
NATALIE BREAKFIELD: It’s almost like a probiotic for a plant.
GRUMKE: That’s Natalie Breakfield, vice president for research and discovery at NewLeaf Symbiotics, a biotechnology startup. Although this is a science-heavy job, not every position here requires a Ph.D. NewLeaf has some hands-on lab positions requiring just an associate’s degree or technical training program. Breakfield does have a Ph.D., but she says she came to this field in a roundabout way. She had a molecular biology degree but didn’t really have any experience with plants before starting her first job as a lab technician.
BREAKFIELD: Well, I knew I liked science. I didn’t really know these kind of jobs existed. And that was my first real introduction into working with plants, and then I actually just fell in love with it.
GRUMKE: Back in St. Louis, one program is trying to fill the worker pipeline by training students to work in labs. Elizabeth Boedeker runs St. Louis Community College’s Center for Plant and Life Sciences. She says even without a four-year degree, her students are in high demand, and salaries for these jobs are around $45,000.
ELIZABETH BOEDEKER: You are getting some solid foundation, and there is a huge workforce demand right now. So the odds are pretty good you’re going to get a job at the end. READ MORE