Now hiring: Agriculture has more career options than you might think

Thursday, June 06, 2019

If, when you think of careers in agriculture, you think of working on a farm, you’re not alone. Even people who grew up on farms can be surprised by the sheer breadth of career opportunities in the agricultural sector.

“The thing about agriculture is there are so many avenues you can go down,” says Brianna Vyn, a bulk seed representative with Nutrien Ag Solutions in High River, Alberta. “Agriculture is so full of opportunities – if you’re a science person or a business person or a tech person – there are so many things to do.”

Vyn grew up on a grain farm in southwest Ontario and went to school to get a general business degree, but the pull of agriculture never left her. “Growing up on a farm, the summer jobs that were open to me were Ag, but I always wanted those jobs, too,” she says. 

Just a few years into her professional life, Vyn’s career path has given her the opportunity to try a few things before landing her current position at Nutrien Ag Solutions where she is a logistical master, working with seed growers and retailers to make sure varieties of Proven Seed wheat, barley and flax are produced and distributed in quantity and on time throughout western Canada. And she loves it. 

A community of mentors

Vyn says she didn’t know how much she’d like the seed side of the industry until she got into it. Even coming from a farm, she had a lot to learn, but she found the support she needed to succeed. “People in agriculture are so willing to mentor others and answer questions,” she says. 

That's music to Norm Flore’s ears. Manager of agronomic services for Nutrien Ag Solutions in southern Alberta, Flore has been with the company for nearly 40 years, acting as a mentor to many colleagues along the way. “I’m ‘Agriculture’ front to back,” he laughs. 

Like Vyn, Flore grew up on a farm. In his youth, he didn’t realize how much opportunity agriculture held for him. “At the time I was growing up on the farm, we weren’t really exposed to a lot of other options,” he says. “I didn’t really think about doing something else until I was talking with a district agriculturalist who turned me on to the possibilities.”

He’s always worked on the crop production side of the industry, and has a huge interest in the technology that helps farmers be more efficient and produce higher yields – everything from GPS to crop monitors to infrared sensor technology. “The opportunities within agriculture are extremely diverse,” says Flore. “Industrial, mechanical, technology, chemical, biotech – there’s a lot to choose from.”

And if you’re not a tech-head, maybe think about the business side of agriculture. “Finance, IT, sales, logistics, market analysis – it’s all agriculture,” says Cheryl Skiba, HR manager with Nutrien Ag Solutions in Regina, Saskatchewan. “There’s more to the whole system than what most people see on the farmer-facing front lines,” she says. “People don’t realize we have these kinds of opportunities.”

It’s true – ag finance, computer networks and systems, high-tech devices and equipment, commodity markets, marketing and communications – the list is truly endless when it comes to what constitutes an agricultural career.

Just try it

To Skiba, Brianna Vyn’s journey exemplifies the best of the sector. “My advice to people is to come out and try it,” she says. Summer student jobs or even job shadowing someone can give you a taste of what a career in agriculture can look like. “Give us a whirl! You don’t know you won’t like it until you try it.”

Vyn has similar advice. “If you are not from agriculture, just give it a try, there’s more available than people realize,” she says. “If you already have an Ag background, push yourself to try different things you might not know you like. Find your fit, build connections, people will help you.”

Decades into the job, Flore offers this observation: “One thing I tell young people a lot is that agriculture is relatively stable. It doesn’t have the highs and lows of, say, the energy industry.” Which isn’t to say that the Ag sector doesn’t have its ups and downs, he’s quick to add, just that they’re not as dramatic. “In this industry, if you do a good job, you have a career for life.”

 

Category:

Careers