Economy empties pockets, heads for refrigerator
Large agricultural productions lure employees who may have otherwise sought an organic career route.
Friday, January 22, 2010 - 18:29
It is a sad but well-recognized fact that money does indeed make the world go round. This constant preoccupation with our ever-increasing cost of living and the ever-decreasing job market leads college graduates to take a second to deliberate before they jump into the shallow career pool that their major offers to them.
Humanities majors, at the forefront of the pack, often decide to pursue Master's degrees and PhDs in their fields and some even jump tracks entirely to try to entice law schools. Yes, as a humanities major myself, (guilty of working towards degrees in both English and arts administration) I too have begun to weigh my studies against the time it will take me to secure a job once I get out of college. But it seems that those not destined for medical schools are not the only ones balking at the sight of our downward sloping economy. Yes, even those organically-minded agriculture majors are being swayed by the thought of a larger paycheck, perhaps permanently forgoing the chance to own and operate smaller organic farms.
The University of Kentucky was founded as the original land-grant institution in the state of Kentucky, part of the Morill Land-Grant Colleges Act of 1865. The College of Agriculture therein boasts a new enrollment of nearly 2,500 students each year — over half the size of my freshman class. So if that many students enroll in the program each year, wouldn't you expect that the future of agriculture was bright, innovative and (hopefully) organic? With today's economic conditions, that forecast might be wrong.
Looking at the state of the economy, people are grasping at the tiniest of straws, hoping to keep their jobs at all costs. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we stand face to face with a current unemployment rate of 10 percent, which means that those straws just aren't pulling through. Thus, it only makes sense that an agricultural engineering major fresh out of college would rather hitch their wagon to larger agricultural producers than try to revolutionize the future of our food by working for a smaller, more environmentally-conscious producer.
The facts stand as this: with larger producers, as with larger businesses, employees get benefits such as healthcare and a pension plan, job security that they can't find in our current job climate, and benefit from stricter regulated worker conditions because these large conglomerates are inspected by federal agencies more often than the smaller mom-and-pop organic farms. Now, while small organic farms may offer one or all of these things as well in order to compete for useful employees, there is no guarantee that they will have the longevity of production offered by large factory farms.
It is a sad reality that humans often act in their own best interest. In modern day America, that means providing for yourself and whatever family you may have, looking to meet your current and future income and security needs. For some, it is retaining whatever standard of living and convenience filled their lives before the recession. Unfortunately, this sort of self-protection leads to the stern buckling down of businesses, causing them to produce in the most efficient, cost-effective way possible. This inherently counteracts everything the organic movement has achieved in the past few decades. As of late, luxury has been filed down to nil, and those who intended to pursue jobs based out of luxury or niche markets are finding they must compromise on career decisions they would have never thought twice about before. Who knew the economy had such long arms? They reach all the way to our dinner table.
Photo: Thomas Cook/Flickr.com
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