According to National Geographic, by the year 2050, the earth is expected to be home to 9 billion people- 35% more than today. In order to accommodate these changes, more farmland will be converted for commercial uses, and more food must be produced. In fact, to adequately feed the entire population, current agricultural production levels must at least double, and the resulting products must be more evenly distributed. To address this issue, everyone must have personal responsibility for producing the food, fuel, and fiber needed and become educated about today’s agricultural world.
According to the Dean of the University of Tennessee’s College of Agriculture, Dr. Caula Beyl, agriculture is "synonymous with life.” Dr. Beyl says, “Everything we do in a day from breathing, eating, and existing is touched by agriculture in some way, shape, or form." Modern agriculture is so much more than sowing seeds and raising livestock. The task of feeding the world rests upon the shoulders of many people- not just farmers. Today's agriculturalists are also chemists, mechanics, laboratory technicians, speakers, businessmen and women, engineers, sales representatives, food safety technicians, biologists, economists, teachers, and extension agents. It takes people with different career goals, strengths, perspectives, talents, and ideas to feed, clothe, and fuel the growing population.
How will these careers and positions be filled? Land Grant Universities play a key role in educating the future agriculturalists and focus on research and extension efforts to gain new knowledge and pass it on as quickly as possible. Dr. Beyl believes that, "the hope for feeding the world exists in educating a new generation that will be the ones that will innovate and make it possible, and Land Grant universities are at the core of that education."
Most graduates of these agricultural programs become professionals in agriculture. However, some students become doctors, physical therapists, lawyers, and dentists. These individuals also play a vital role in agriculture because they are better informed about modern agriculture, vote both at the polls and in the grocery stores, and therefore are involved in shaping the future of the agricultural industry.
Currently, the efforts to accommodate the growing need for food, fuel, and fiber have been successful. The utilization of genetically modified organisms, improvements in animal breeding, and precision agriculture techniques have allowed today's producers to better utilize resources such as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, medicines, land, and water. Therefore, the agricultural industry is increasingly environment-friendly and efficient. If agriculturalists continue to utilize the technologies available to them, and agricultural knowledge becomes more wide-spread, food security concerns can be lessened.
Agricultural education is becoming increasingly important to all people in all career paths. Engineers are needed to design precision planting and harvesting equipment, geneticists are needed to develop the highest performing plants and animals, agriculture teachers and FFA advisors are needed to bring the youth into this effort, and professionals everywhere are needed to vote for positive changes in agricultural policy. Everyone has a stake in food security, and everyone has something to contribute to agriculture.