An Open Letter to Terence Loose on the Future of Agriculture Careers

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Below is the letter I emailed to Mr. Terence Loose regarding this article:

Dear Mr. Loose,

My name is Rebekah Bowen. I am a graduate student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication with an emphasis in Communication and Social Media.

I grew up on a small family farm in South Georgia, where I learned the value of faith, family and hard work. I was raised being an active part of both 4-H and FFA youth development organizations which have taught me many life skills and helped encourage me to seek a degree in an area I was passionate about.

This led me to study Agricultural Communications at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (A.S., 2007), the University of Georgia (B.S., Magna Cum Laud, 2010) and the University of Tennessee (M.S., 2012). These degrees which you have called “Useless” have provided me with learning experiences that are very diverse and have equipped me to pursue a job in many different areas.  As I look toward graduation in May, I am actively applying for jobs. While many of my friends who will be graduating in May face an uncertain future in the job market, I find that I am highly qualified (Thanks to those “useless” degrees!) to apply for a plethora of jobs. Not only am I qualified to apply for these jobs, but there are actually job openings available that I am highly interested in. Some of the companies offering these jobs are Cargill , DOW AgroSciences, Monsanto, DuPont, Tyson, Alltech, John Deere and many, many others! The website AgCareers currently has over 2,000 open agriculture related jobs posted on their website.

Also, because the agriculture program at most universities offers a variety of diverse opportunities, I also have a lot of real world experience to add to my resume. This includes teaching college-level courses, developing leadership workshops for high school students, administrative experience with a University-related non-profit, attending regional and national conferences and conventions, and many others.

I am a firm believer in the 1st Amendment right that journalists have to write things that other people (in this case, the Agriculture Industry) may not like; however, I also believe that all journalists should use this right only in accordance with the SPJ Code of Ethics. You have heard of those, right? I am highly convinced that your article, “College Majors That Are Useless,” is in direct conflict with the first of these ethics–Seek Truth and Report  It. The article states that Agriculture, Animal Science and Horticulture are three of the top five most useless college degrees. However, the sources that were cited are misconstrued and can be considered irrelevant to the claims that are listed in your article.

The first source listed was the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) 2012 Job Outlook study (which can be purchased here for $49.95). You stated that this report represented over 1,000 employers, which may be true. The more relevant number, however, is that the report only surveyed 244 organizations. While I have not read the report, I would be willing to bet that NONE of these 244 organizations were from the agricultural industry. Obviously, Goldman Sachs will not be hiring Agriculture, Animal Science or Horticulture majors. Secondly, a large majority of students who graduate with agriculture-related degrees do one of three things: (1) start their own business, (2) work on their family farm or (3) get a job with a major agriculture company like the ones I listed above. Therefore,  the results of this report (However valid and reliable it may be!) are totally irrelevant to the field of agriculture.

The second source listed (available here)  is questionable at best because of its lack of substantiated evidence. The article provides no sources for its many statistics about pay scales and employment. This is not only bad journalism, but could also be considered plagiarism. Finally, this source which you used is in direct conflict with another of your articles for Yahoo! Education. In that article, you argued that Pyschology is the 2nd most effective degree for graduates; however, the Daily Beast article ranks this as the 18th most useless degree.  This would leave your readers quite confused about whether or not to bail on their Psychology major.

Please know that I wish you no personal ill will; however, I do feel that it is important that the standards and ethics of good journalism be upheld by those who are given the power to disseminate information, especially through such a large channel as Yahoo! Education. This is, sadly, where a large majority of our population gains their knowledge and it is important to ensure that the information we provide is accurate. In the case of the article you wrote, the information is simply inaccurate and misconstrued. Those of us in the Agricultural Community would greatly appreciate it if you would check your facts before writing such an article in the future.

Sincerely,

An Agriculture Major

Please feel free to comment below or email your own letter to Mr. Terence Loose at tloose7@gmail.com. As I am not a numerically minded person, I am leaving the statistical rebuttals up to more talented individuals. Finally, don’t forget to answer the poll and leave a comment if you have one!

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that it is difficult to locate the comment button. If you would like to leave a comment, or read comments that others have left on this post simply click here.

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143 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Terence Loose on the Future of Agriculture Careers

  1. Obviously by the educated and well versed response that you gave, your education in the Ag field has set the stage for a bright future. I can’t begin to tell you how much value the FFA and college Ag programs have for molding young people for our future. Although I am not working in the Ag field (Wastewater) the education I received in Ag molded me for the success that I have achieved in life. It isn’t just about jobs, it is about teaching kids the value of hard work and education to be successful in life. Congrats young lady for achieving such a “worthless education”, you will succeed in life with what you have gained.

    • Rebekah

      Although you did not get a job in the agriculture field, it seems you still highly value your agriculture education. This in itself shows that agricultural degrees are not useless. Thanks so much for your kind support!

  2. As a journalist and someone who grew up in southwest Georgia with a majority of their family working in the agriculture industry, I applaud your letter. When I read that article I immediately posted it to Facebook with an angry comment and have gotten a TON of responses, from family members, fellow journalists and friends whose families are in agricultural businesses. I came up through 4H and FFA, and although my chosen career path led me in a direction other than agriculture, I still work in the South, specifically southeast Alabama, and we cover agriculture stories on an almost daily basis. I hope Mr. Loose replies to your letter, or better yet, writes a retraction.

    • Rebekah

      Thanks so much for your kind reply! It is very comforting to know that there are good journalists like you out there to cover agriculture related stories! Thanks for all you do!!!!

  3. Mariah

    The way that Loose’s terribly written article & your response have gone viral on the web is a testimony of how awesome the Ag Industry is! Thanks for getting his email address out to us!

  4. Alex

    Way to go! Its because of ignorant people like him that the agriculture industry is often looked down upon. Thanks for being our voice!

  5. Small Fry

    Great letter…

    Mr. Jim Rogers has the proven track record to speak for us all…

    You had better quit your Job, Terence, and become a farmer!

  6. Rich Young

    This is pathetic. Instead of writing a response on a billboard in the middle of nowhere, you should have tracked him down contacted him directly. Yeah, you get a bunch of pats on the back, but this Terence guy isn’t going to respond. He is just writing for the money.

    I was going to call him out on useless degrees #2 & #3, Fashion Design and Theater. He claims they both graduated 89,140 students. Wow, what a coincidence that two useless degrees graduated the same exact number of students. Obviously he didn’t put much effort into checking facts. This was just an article to make some extra cash for Christmas bills.

    Don’t get mad at ol Terence. If you feel you need to justify your career then you need to do some thinking for yourself. I am an electrical engineer. I have nothing good or bad to say about it and could care less what others write about it. I just have this thing about people being honest and/or diligent in their work. If they are it is easy to know what you are dealing with.

    Rich

    • Rebekah Bowen

      Mr. Young,

      I did in fact contact Mr. Loose directly. I sent this email to his personal email. I then chose to share it on my personal blog, which gets an average view of 5-6 people. I had no intention of it being spread so far or gaining the attention of so many. I simply wanted to share my opinion about the issue with the few other bloggers and agriculturalists who I keep in contact with regularly.

      As you yourself said, “I just have this thing about people being honest and/or diligent in their work.” Mr. Loose was not diligent about his research or honest about any of the five degrees he mentioned. As a student who has studied journalism at three separate Universities, I found that his journalistic abilities would have garnered him a failing grade in any journalism class I have been enrolled in. Therefore, I felt the need to stand up for my field and clarify the inaccuracies that were presented by this sub-par writer. If this gained me a few compliments, that was definitely not my intention.

      Sincerely,
      Rebekah

    • I have plenty reason to be mad at ol Terence. Its shameful that he is using substandard statistics that could potentially push someone away from doing what would make them happy.

      Its things like this that give theatre a bad reputation. The truth is that their is plenty of work for those who are willing to put in the time and dedication it takes to be a true professional.

  7. Plant Doctor

    R,
    I have been emailing the link to the ‘useless career’ article

    http://education.yahoo.net/articles/most_useless_degrees.htm?kid=1KWNU

    as well as the link to this article

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505145_162-37240577/the-best-and-worst-college-degrees-by-salary/?tag=mwuser

    which talks about how low paying horticulture jobs are to my former professors in the AG School at UGA. I want to keep them aware of articles such as these.

    I am really glad you took the initiative to address the authors assertions.

    I look for and follow these types of articles closely during my daily news reading. I have noticed agriculture seems to get bad press regularly. This begs the question; why all the negative press about ag degrees and horticulture degrees in the popular press?

    Last week I emailed a former professor of mine in the UGA Ag school and asked him if Ag schools are able to place all of their ag students in good paying jobs shouldn’t someone in the ag school refute these articles with some sort of press release? Or, make an effort to promote all of the success stories? Unfortunately, it is hard to compete with a website so widely read as Yahoo News.

    Remember, this article was on Yahoo news, one of the biggest news sites in the world, and many tens of millions of people saw it the other morning and will continue to see it forever because these articles are never going to go away. Any prospective student or parent searching the internet will see nothing but bad press about ag degrees.

    No parent is going to pay for their kid to go to school to get a ‘useless’ degree. I never see any positive news about the agriculture industry or agricultural education in the popular press…and I peruse a great deal of news sites. If you google ‘worst paying degrees’ or any other terms concerning degrees you get lots of websites saying horticulture, agriculture and animal science are not worth pursuing. This kind of press is going to show up later in lower ag school enrollment I think.

    Thank you for your efforts to refute the claims that agricultural degrees are useless. As with any degree people pursuing a career in ag should be realistic about what they are going to make, what the job prospects are and what kind of relocation they might have to make to find work.

    Your blog is a small step in pushing back against the negative press.

  8. marcie

    I am glad I wasn’t the only one appalled by this article!!! Does this man eat? Where does he think his food comes from? I have a BS degree in Agriculture Science and I am an Agricultural Biologist and I taught Agriculture Science at a high school before that!

  9. David Gianino

    Thank you Rebekah.
    I am a Horticulture student and am fully confident in the means and purposes of my pursuits of this degree. It is NOT a useless degree in the least. If anything, Horticulture is one of the most sought after degrees in the Horticulture industry. There are many, many jobs that pay well, have job stability and will benefit the ecological standing of the planet.

  10. Thank you so much for this response, I’m not a agricultural major, I’m a Theater major. I can tell you right now that their are well over 16,000 jobs available in theater. I think journalism like this a shame because it pushes people away from doing what their hearts want them to do. The only thing that I agreed with in the article was the quote saying that we will do it because we love it. I am sure that it is the same with you guys as well.

    keep at it!

  11. Magen

    Rebecca,
    Thanks so much for your reply to Mr. Loose. I too was disappointed with his lack of through research on his subject. His first inaccuracy is the assuption is that agriculture majors, animal science majors and horticulture majors (!) become farmers or farm managers after graduation. He either overlooked, or has never heard of the huge “agriculture sector” that makes up a significant portion of our economy. For a rather short list of possible careers for people with ag degrees a quick google search will take you to http://www.agday.org/education/careers.php. looks like more than farmers to me.

    On a personal note, my “useless” undergraduate in Crop Science-biotechnology allowed me to pursue my “useless” Ph.D. in Crop Science Plant breeding. So useless in fact, that I was recruited hired 3 months before I defended my research, and 7 mo before my actual graduation.

  12. N Luree Bowen

    Rebekah,

    As always, you’re top notch all the way!

    The entire Bowen family applauds your firm stand on the issues you addressed here.

    Keep up the good work!

  13. Andrea McMackin

    Thank you for such a well written letter. It upholds journalistic principles that the author of the article chose to overlook. I have a BS in Animal Science from the University of California, Davis. I have never had a problem getting a job in the agricultural field. The fact that this journalist failed to fully investigate before making such a claim hints to their personal work ethic and values. I have had doors open to me that I did not realize possible due to my degree, I have also managed to open the eyes of many others who misjudged my abilities due to their ignorance of what an agricultural major is about. I would like to ask this journalist- if not for Ag majors, who is going to feed and clothe the population, manage the forests and wildlife, engineer more efficient farming techniques to feed our population while protecting our environment, protect the safety of our food supply, take care of our beloved pets, study animal and human diseases, and so much more? I doubt it will be the accounting major. Most likely it will be someone with an agricultural related degree. (By the way, I have worked in 3 of the above listed fields with my agriculture degree).

  14. Dear Rebekah,
    Just wanted to share the letter below as well. It is being sent to editors of both on-line and print newspapers and magazines around the world.
    Nice job with yours!

    Dear Editor,

    It’s happened again.
    Tests by a company of its brand-name orange juice turned up low levels of fungicide. But even as the report went on to indicate the amount was below federal safety concerns and didn’t pose a health risk—alarm bells sounded around the world.
    Issues related to the safety and security of our food supply top the news on a regular basis. However, a recent article about the future of the business as posted on Yahoo-Education is the type of report doing more harm to agriculture than good.
    ( http://education.yahoo.net/articles/most_useless_degrees.htm?kid=1KWNU )

    Separate statistical data from the United States Department of Labor and United States Department of Agriculture indicates an expected growth in most agriculture-related fields including inspectors, scientists and veterinarians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects over the next five years, there will be a 5% increase in the need for graduates in these disciplines, but a 10% decline in the number of students choosing these important programs as their career path. This means a shortfall of qualified workers in the areas where we need them most—plants, food, animals and climate change or environmental analysts. But, there are also growing opportunities in industries linked to the business of agriculture; from trucking to coffee and beer brewing, dietetic concerns to animal welfare and pet foods.

    According to Yahoo’s article, students majoring in agriculture-related disciplines are wasting their time and money. Yet, contrary to this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also suggests an 8% increase in the need for qualified, well-educated Ag Managers; citing quickly advancing technological methods of farming across the U.S. and abroad, along with changes in regulations at all Government levels.
    ( http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos046.htm )

    The bottom line— agriculture isn’t dead. In fact, no other industry feeds the world’s population which, according to research, will hit 9 billion by 2050 (Feedstuffs, October 26, 2009). Instead, the need for graduates in agriculture, horticulture and animal science programs will be critical to finding ways of safely doubling food production in order to meet the demand of a growing population. The many facets offer a chance to make a difference. By helping agriculture thrive—we keep the rest of humanity alive.

    Sincerely,

    Jeffrey Volenec
    President, Crop Science Society of America

    Kenneth Barbarick
    President, American Society of Agronomy

    Gary Pierzynski
    President, Soil Science Society of America

    Ellen Bergfeld, C.E.O.
    Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies

  15. Craig Lanier

    How about that! I don’t really understand this whole social media thing like you cool youngsters do, but I do know this…As our world population grows at an almost immeasurable rate, there will be more jobs in agriculture, not less.

    • Rebekah Bowen

      Bro. Craig,

      We “cool youngsters” would have to agree! 🙂 Thanks for reading and I hope you, Sis. Tammy and the kids are doing great!

      ~Rebekah~

  16. B Kappler

    Rebekah,

    As a proud graduate with an M.S. in Agronomy I wanted to take the time to thank you for your responses to the “useless Loose article”. After reading his article I was so infuriated and when I expressed my frustration on Facebook someone pointed me towards your response. Nice Job. Also while you listed some large ag companies above I wanted to make sure you didn’t overlook BASF. While I happen to be an employee of BASF I felt it important to share with you two video productions BASF completed this year and last for the benefit of the entire agriculture industry.

    In early 2011 BASF released One Hungry Planet found here on YouTube

    Just recently BASF released Conservation Conversation found here on YouTube:

    These videos don’t promote BASF products but simply promote agriculture. Hope you enjoy and share with your friends!

    Keep fighting the good fight!

  17. Williams

    This is a video I wanted to share with you, Rebekah. Some students at our local CC (where my husband teaches Ag classes) made this in response to this same article. You might enjoy it! My husband and I both graduated with degrees either in or closely related to Ag (crop science, forestry, turf). You wrote a very articulate letter, I’m impressed! Nice work.

  18. Rebekah a great letter you posted and thoughtful comments by all. TL’s facebook indicated he studied TV and Film…so he may not be in touch with real jobs. Unfortunately it looks like the dude (I actually think that is an apt description in this case) lives in Hawaii…I believe you and all your new followers have the true pulse of what is going on. Thank you.

  19. Scott

    Excelllent response to this article. I’m not real impressed with Mr. Loose either. I am a recent Architecture graduate, from a top accredited school, and his article infuriates me. ALL employers are VERY impressed with my degree. My degree gives me the power to apply my craft in a meriad of industries, not including Architecture. Mr. Loose is obviously unaware of this, because his education seems to have truly fallen well short of the mark. Go back to journalism school, because you failed in my book, Mr. Loose. Your article, mentioned above, is a joke and certainly lacking the CORECT information. You should not just make stuff up and you should chose titles that are more inline with the context of what you are writing. Poor, poor, poor job, Mr. Loose.

  20. Rebekah — I am glad you had the courage to write such an excellent response to Terence Loose. I am an old man who has devoted his entire life to the arts and humanities. I have spent a great deal of time reading and studying such “useless” things as Art History, Architectural History, Archaeology, Ancient Civilization, Philosophy, Comparative Philology, and Anthropology. If you are looking at education simply as job training, I would advise you to follow the advice of Mr. Loose and concern yourself entirely with the marketability of your degree. If you are concerned about your education and look at college as a period of your life to devote to the liberal arts and the humanizing effect they produce, I would say to ignore Mr. Loose entirely. He is simply another fool who has been enabled by the Internet to spread his feeble point of view. It is possible to find employment without making the Faustian bargain of losing your soul.
    Sincerely,
    Greg Muller

  21. vrldc@excite.com

    I have read other articles by this author on the least desirable college degrees and they are all, short attention getters aimed at getting clicks for ads. They are not really to be taken seriously.

  22. Rebekah…it appears this Mr. Loose has only one arrow in his quiver: write about how useless and wortless certain college degrees are. Just today, Yahoo “News” ran an article of his called “Most Hated and Loved Degrees”. It’s glaringly obvious his only “talent” is to knock what he obviously doesn’t know.

    http://education.yahoo.net/articles/loved_and_hated_degrees.htm?kid=1MN32

    I had a girlfriend who grew up as a dairy farmer, went through 4H, and competed her cows in competition. I, on the other hand, was a “city boy” through and through! But to put it plainly, she was briliiant. She received an Ag degree and is now an amazingly successful comodities trader here in MN.

    Terence Loose could stand to learn a thing or two.

    Kudos to you, Rebekah!

  23. Wow, I had no idea everyone felt the same way I do about Mr. Loose. He’s been attacking Architecture and Theater, which were my two majors, and it’s extremely frustrating that he doesn’t know left from right. Glad to have found his email address–I’ll just give him a piece of my mind.

  24. Nikko_Architect

    Rebekah, this Terence Loose did the same again now with Architectural, Fine Arts and Philosophy, so dont waste your time with another pea-brained journalist that dont know left from right. You did great with your letter, but dont think she’s the kind of person that do research things.

  25. Eleanor Babytimesgirl

    Does “Terrance Loose” really exist? Notice this ads surrounding this “news article”–U of Phoenix, etc. I am guessing it was simply written by a corporate entity, trying to advertise itself as some sort of objective, independent opinion. Yahoo publishes these every so often with different warnings about some degrees, and the recommendation of other degrees (most of which can be obtained from the advertisers).

    The solution here is to stop using Yahoo–it isn’t what it seems.

  26. Chris

    There are no ethics of journalism for these “Yahoo Smile” articles, or whatever online mill these things are published in everyday. it’s just horrible, horrible “freelance” job done to fill up space. Worst of all, the Internet is basically a breeding ground for this type of “journalism.” It’s everywhere, let’s call it, “freelance porn,” and it’s only self serving.

  27. leslie

    Thank your for your post “An Open Letter to Terence Loose on the Future of Agriculture Careers.” I also had a strong negative reaction to his one of his articles about “useless” college majors.

    Re the statistical rebuttals you left to your readers. The article I read commented that art majors were a dead end, even though “arts majors with experience or a graduate degree in the subject” have an “unemployment rate of 7.3 percent.” Yet wouldn’t that be better bet than his suggested “expressway” degree in engineering, with a 7.5 percent unemployment rate.

    Next question – How does this guy manage to get published?

  28. Renee

    Dear Ms. Bowen,

    I was delighted to see this article after Googling Terence Loose’s latest article, which states that insurance adjusters are a dying career because of new software. Speaking as a Financial Analyst for a giant multinational insurance company in Manhattan’s Financial District, I can tell you that this is a bogus statement – if for no other reason than the fact that you have to understand insurance underwriting in order to use insurance underwriting software.
    I could wax philosophical about computer illiteracy in general, but I’ll spare you – the point is that software in itself is not a replacement for human brains, and won’t be until superintelligent cyborgs are created. I don’t think that’s a worry for the near future.
    Regardless, good for you speaking out for Ag careers. As a former 4-Her and graduate of the University of Minnesota, I can sum up the benefits of an Ag degree in two words – Honeycrisp apples!

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