Nicholas Meyer wasn’t surprised by what he learned about agriculture in his freshman year of college. He was surprised at what he learned about possibilities.
“There was more to my major, agricultural engineering, than I thought there was,” he said. “I just saw agricultural engineering as the people responsible for designing machines, like combines. I didn’t realize it could also be the person going to third-world countries and designing equipment for them, where their biggest fields don’t compare to our smallest.”
Being at a university is as reliable a way as any to keep up with the ever-changing industry of agriculture. Of course, you get the experience at home, too, Clint Kroupa said.
“It’s gotten more complicated,” he said. “Not just what they’re teaching, but even being at home here.”
Kroupa and Meyer both are heading into their sophomore years at Kansas State University.
While Meyer is in agricultural engineering, Kroupa is majoring in agricultural business with a minor in agronomy.
“I’m looking to come back and farm,” he said. “I feel that knowing more about the business end of stuff is going to do me better than knowing how to run machinery — having more of a business mindset.”
While Kroupa has taken some ag classes, most of his coursework to date has been general education courses.
His degree is tailored more toward living off the farm, but he says what he’s learning will help him in whatever path he chooses.
“I want to know more about the business side,” he said. “And it’s nice to have a fallback. If something goes bad there, an agricultural business degree is more marketable than one in farm and ranch management.”
For Meyer, which path to take has become more of a question since he started.
He wanted to work in Hesston for either Agco or John Deere. While that plan hasn’t been discarded, it’s no longer a given.
“After this first year of college, I can’t just put my finger on it and say, ‘This is what I want to do’ anymore,” he said.
Agriculture education has evolved from mere practical knowledge to incorporate more theoretical concepts. Those theoretical concepts are being taught less through textbooks and more through practical applications, Meyer said.
While academia may provide a fuller education for agricultural scholars than ever before, nothing beats experience.
“A farmer today has to know such a broad range of things,” Meyer said. “An ag industry student has to know more than what time to put fertilizer or chemical on. They have to know much more than the theoretical aspect as well.
“My firsthand experience is my most valuable asset.”