Monday, 2 April 2012

Why Agriculture?

Agriculture is not a new scientific field - it is as old as most of recorded history. It was one of the major factors in the development of human society as we understand it today. But agriculture is not glamorous or elegant. It often gets forgotten as an academic pursuit. Once an acquaintance asked me what I was going to grad school for, when I replied “Horticulture” he said “I didn’t even know you could go to school for that”. So why then would a person choose to immerse themselves in agriculture? The answer is not as simple as you might think. 

Many people choose agriculture as a career due to family history (myself included); some come for the love of food and others come for the prospect of lucrative jobs. But all people who work in the agricultural field have one common trait: they are hooked. Some are born with the infatuation - most likely because their parents were hooked. Some others get hooked at a young age and others later in life. But once you’re hooked on agriculture, there is no way to shake it. Why the infatuation is so strong has never been clear to me. Maybe it has to do the fresh air or the feeling of self-sustainability or possibly the taming of the landscape. I have seen people from all disciplines fall into the grips of agriculture: engineers, psychologists, linguists, medical doctors and the list goes on. No one is safe. 

My own personal infatuation started very early in life. Being the son of two horticulturists, you stand very little chance of escaping it. This has driven me from a small town in Newfoundland to one of the oldest and most respected agricultural colleges in North America, and still the infatuation grows. That’s the other thing, people with the infatuation must constantly consume more knowledge - how to grow better and faster with less inputs on less land. Soon your days are consumed with fertilizer regiments and developmental stages.

All joking aside, it is not an infatuation in agriculture that seduces people, it is passion. Few academic fields combine the social, political and scientific aspects of life in the same way that agriculture does. As I said from the start, agriculture is deeply intertwined into not only human society but the human conscious, to form a strange symbiosis.  And while my analogy to any infatuation is meant for entertainment, it is not so far from the truth. For example, my elderly grandfather passed away recently, and his biggest worry before he died was that he was no longer able to plant dahlia bulbs. This is a man who had had multiple surgeries, was taking medication and was finding it hard to move around, and his main concern was that he was unable to get his horticultural fix. 

In the end, I think it’s the nobility of agriculture that draws people in - it is truly the creation of something from nothing.  Most, if not all farmers, be their operations large or small are dedicated hard workers, who eat and sleep agriculture. These people produce the food the world lives on and for the most part are largely forgotten by the general public for providing it. It is this un-thanked dedication that truly defines agriculture and the people who work in it, be they academics or producers, and it is that feeling, that way of life, that provides the passion that makes agriculture so addictive.

“For of all gainful professions, nothing is better, nothing more pleasing, nothing more delightful, nothing better becomes a well-bred man than agriculture” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

By James Dawson
Grad Student


  1. i havent seen anything like agriculture that shows how beautiful life is and nature around us

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