Career Paths In Agriculture

by | Mar 21, 2022

The agriculture industry is so much more than a tractor plowing a field. Although farmers are our most valuable and important resource, the industry offers a plethora of career paths for a variety of fields of interest, including marketing, social media, veterinary, technology, GSI and GPS mapping and more! Keep reading to learn about some of our employees in these related fields and start your path in agriculture today.

Randy Maness: NCDA&CS Marketing Division

Randy Maness is a Marketing Specialist in our Marketing Division where he works with our Got To Be N.C. program. “I work with our N.C. member companies to help them identify markets to sell their products,” he said, “which means that I am also in constant contact with local grocery retailers to make them aware of all the awesome products that are grown, raised, caught and made by these companies.” He also works with our marketing team to plan events that showcase these great products and connect producers to any and all marketing opportunities, including the Got To Be N.C. Festival in May.

Although many farmers and agriculture industry producers are becoming more market savvy, Randy and his team members in the marketing division serve an important role in helping these producers to identify key opportunities to market their products in the best ways possible. “‘Local’ has become the buzzword in the retail grocery industry,” Randy said, “so, I help bridge the gap between grocery buyers/category managers to our Got To Be N.C. members and the local products that they produce.” Networking with all these talented and intelligent individuals across the industry is what fuels Randy in his passion for the job and the work it presents each day.

For those seeking a marketing career in agriculture, Randy suggests learning all that you can about the industry. “There are so many career fields available in this industry, take the time to seek out and speak to those who are in the agriculture environment that you envision for yourself,” he said. “You must enjoy interacting with people and getting out of your comfort zone to succeed here. Always remember…the answer is always no when you don’t ask!” Stop by the Expo building this year at the Got To Be N.C. Festival at the N.C. State Fairgrounds to meet Randy and various other members of his team to learn more about what they do!

Sherry Teachey: NCDA&CS Standards Division

Sherry Teachey is a metrologist with our Standards Division. To understand the position of a metrologist, you must first understand the function of the division itself.

Our Standards Division is home to many field inspectors that, among other things, inspect the accuracy of commercial weighing and measuring equipment, such as grocery store meat & produce scales, grain scales, gasoline pumps, livestock scales, etc. As a Metrologist for the division, Sherry’s role is to support division staff by testing the equipment that is used by these inspectors every day. “My job is to support our division personnel as well as commercial and private entities by providing accurate calibrations of testing equipment and devices such as weights, volumetric test measures, LP gas and volumetric provers, thermometers, etc. that are then used by our field inspectors and others to test the accuracy of measuring devices used for commercial retail and other purposes,” she said.

Whether you are in the grocery store stocking up for the week or at the gas station filling up your tank, at the end of the transaction you will be charged a price for some of those goods based on quantity (ie: price per pound, price per gallon, etc.). In these cases, the price cannot be calculated until you know how much you received (ie: how many pounds or gallons) and that amount is determined by using measuring equipment such as grocery store scales, gasoline pumps, LP gas meters and more. “My job as a metrologist is to calibrate the devices, such as weights and volumetric devices, that are used by our inspectors and other technicians to test the accuracy of measuring equipment being used by others,” Sherry said. “It is crucial that the measuring equipment being used to determine the quantity or amount purchased is accurate so that a fair monetary transaction can occur. We cannot control the price being charged, but we strive to ensure the accuracy of the measuring equipment being used in these transactions.” Additionally, our Standards Division also tests lottery balls to ensure fairness and randomness of drawing and provides calibration services for many outside entities such as pharmaceutical companies, scale companies, gasoline companies, U.S. state labs and others.

In her position, Sherry has to draw from a lot of different skills, including mathematics, technology, analytics, physical labor and social skills. “There is enough variety in this job that every day is different in some way,” she said, “and with the advances in technology, you are always learning something new.” Her advice to someone seeking a career in metrology, which, she points out, is very different from meteorology, is to take school courses in mathematics, statistics, physics and computer involving math and stats calculations as well as using graphing spreadsheets. “This job requires a lot of computer work, such as entering test data into spreadsheets, performing calculations, generating calibration certificates and more, so getting as much education as possible in that realm is critical,” she said, “but this position is becoming more widely known and recognized as a respected and necessary part of our state’s agriculture industry.”

Christian Vose: NCDA&CS Emergency Programs Division

Christian Vose manages the Information Support Services (ISS) section of our Emergency Programs Division, which provides Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping services and web application development to all departmental divisions. “Our GIS Services and web applications are used to collect data, consolidate information, generate reports, and/or spatially display information that could help prepare and respond to any foreign animal disease outbreak, catastrophic natural disaster, or high consequence food recall and the impact of that event to our state’s agriculture industry,” he said.

Each year, the agriculture industry is faced with many challenges, whether it be hurricanes, drought, animal disease or something else. Farmers are some of the most resilient people on this planet, and our emergency programs division works hard to prepare as many materials as possible to help them recovery quickly when these events arise. “Our enterprise applications, which assist EP and other divisions with data management and regulatory functions, leverage robust backend relational databases that allow tabular and spatial information to be rapidly analyzed during multi-hazard events that impact the agriculture industry,” Christian said. “Additionally, our GIS services provide maps that assist with topics such as establishing easements, assessing threatened or damaged areas from all-hazard events, identifying agriculture areas for landowner assistance, and much more.”

In addition to managing the daily GIS, programming, web design, application development and hardware administration for the division, Christian also works on special mapping projects, data needs, research of new technology products, maps for decision making and much more. Although his job can present many challenges, Christian loves being able to help agriculture producers in our state. “In Emergency Programs, our assistance often comes during a time of great hardship for those impacted by a hazard event, and being ready and able to assist the Department’s effort to provide relief for affected landowners by leveraging our databases, creating maps for decision making, and any other services we can provide is extremely important to me,” he said.

His advice to anyone interested in a career with Emergency Programs or a related division is to always be willing to adapt and come up with creative solutions to a wide variety of scenarios. The world of agriculture encompasses so much diversity, both in terms of the people that you encounter as well as the topics covered, like forestry, insects, crops, etc.,” Christian said, “but adapting and designing projects that fit the end user’s needs and goals and assisting them to meet their goals is extremely rewarding and always keeps your job interesting.”

Taylor Parrish: NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division

Taylor Parrish is the Social Media Coordinator in our Public Affairs Division. Her job requires her to manage the departments Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, as well as monitor the YouTube, LinkedIn and other related social media platforms. “Social media has become one of the primary forms of communication used throughout the world and is where many individuals turn first for their news,” Taylor said. “The agriculture industry has so much to offer, from inspiring stories of our state’s hard-working farmers to an incredible array of local products, and it is important to ensure that those stories are reaching viewers right where they are, whether that’s Facebook, Instagram or another related platform.”

In much the same way that our marketing division helps bridge the gap between products and consumers, social media helps connect farmers and other individuals across the agriculture industry with the world at large. “Social media presents a unified platform for individuals of all shapes, sizes, colors and opinions to collaborate, learn and share,” Taylor said, “and with it being the most widely growing outlet of communication, it is essential that our farmers, department employees and other agriculture producers utilize it to the fullest potential.”

Not only does Taylor work hard to spread the word about the work being done across all divisions of the NCDA&CS, but she also partners with farmers, business owners, Got To Be N.C. members, farmers market vendors and other individuals in our state to spread stories about the hard work being done across the industry as a whole. On a daily basis, she can be found creating content for social media via graphics and videos, conducting interviews with department employees and farmers, as well as helping where needed with other social media accounts housed under the NCDA&CS umbrella, like the N.C. State Fair and Got To Be N.C. Festival. “I love being able to spread the word about all the incredible work being done within our industry,” she said. “N.C. agriculture is full of the most hard-working, dedicated, loyal and resilient people that you will ever find. Knowing that I have a hand in helping their stories be told on a highly viewed platform gives me immense pride. It is also a great way to drive attention and interest in their products and support the ‘buy local’ movement.”

Since social media is a widely growing field, Taylor recommends gaining experience through internships and monitoring the daily changes that take place across different social media platforms. “Social media is constantly changing, so it is not a field you can get into expecting an 8 to 5 job. Monitoring the changes of each platform, watching the numbers and staying up to date on the latest tips and trends is all crucial to being successful in this field, including on the weekends” she said. “It’s also important to learn the differences between managing a personal platform and a business platform because they are very different animals. Take on multiple internships throughout your college years, gain experience working with a variety of companies and learn from the people currently seated in those roles so that you will have a foundation to build off of.” Be sure to follow our social media platforms to keep up with all the department is doing!

Walter White: NCDA&CS Information Technology Division

Walter White is a Technology Support Analyst with our Information Technology Services Division (IT), where his job involves helping employees across the department with a plethora of technological issues. “My job is to provide computer, network and peripheral support to our employees (keyboards, mice, printer, etc.),” he said. “Additionally, my coworkers and I also assist with the set up of the N.C. State Fair, Got To Be N.C. Festival and other events that go on at the fairgrounds and ensure all technological needs are met in that space.”

Many NCDA&CS employees both in the office and in the field rely on technology to complete their every day job assignments. “Along with my colleagues, I am responsible for setting up and handing out new machines, making sure users can log into their accounts and supporting any IT issues that may arise during the day, like printer issues, broken machines, fax line problems, connectivity issues, new employee setup and more,” Walter said.

He is even sometimes required to travel to other areas of the state to help employees who are not stationed in the downtown Raleigh office. “Sometimes there are reasons that we need to travel, such as setting up computers in other offices across the state or troubleshooting something that we cannot fix remotely, and that is definitely my favorite part of the job because I get to see different parts of the state and try out new local restaurants while doing the things that I love,” Walter said.

His biggest advice for someone seeking a career in the IT field, especially in the agricultural realm, is to stay calm and practice patience. “Technology always seems to have issues when we need it most, so working in IT you get a fair number of calls when a user needs something to work ‘right now,'” Walter said. “Staying calm in those situations and having patience both with the machine and with the user is an important part of the job.” With the increasing reliance on technology, the IT field is of growing importance to the world at large, including the world of agriculture.

Jennifer Haugland: NCDA&CS Veterinary Division

Dr. Jennifer Haugland is a Veterinary Diagnostician with our Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories, where the lab’s mission is to help protect the food supply and public health through laboratory diagnosis of animal disease and surveillance testing. “As one of the veterinary diagnosticians my role is to perform necropsies, which is a post-mortem exam of animals,” Dr. Haugland said. “This is done to determine cause of death of an animal or the cause of illness or death in a group of animals.”

A necropsy exam is an important part of animal agriculture and veterinary medicine because it provides information about the health of an individual animal as well as the flock or herd. This information can then be used by pet owners and agriculture producers to treat diseases and prevent problems from reoccurring. “When we examine these animals we can often tell the producer or their veterinarian what disease or management problem is occurring, so that appropriate treatment or management changes can be implemented to hopefully minimize or stop additional losses. Sometimes it can be as simple as a toxic plant and removing the access to the toxin or we can confirm an outbreak of pneumonia and do additional laboratory testing to determine the different diseases causing the pneumonia,” Jennifer said. “This information may help the current outbreak or provide data for future vaccination or management decisions.” Additionally, the laboratory serves as a tool for detecting foreign animal and emerging diseases.

Jennifer is responsible for a variety of tasks each day, including necropsy procedures and result analysis, preparing animal tissue samples for histopathology and communicating with veterinarians, animal ag farmers/producers and pet owners. “When an animal is brought into the laboratory, we review the paperwork and history of the animal with the owner or farmer before performing an outside and inside examination of the animal,” Jennifer said. “Based on what we find, the history, and other factors, we will determine what additional laboratory testing, if any, is necessary to make a diagnosis. After the necropsy, we provide the preliminary findings to the owner and/or veterinarian.” Although she loves her job, working with these farmers is her favorite part because she is able to help provide them answers about their livestock and help solve pieces of the puzzle. “The job is especially rewarding when I am able to provide answers from the necropsy that will make a difference to the other animals and maybe to the economics of a farm. Cases can be complicated, but knowing that I can provide data or some pieces of the puzzle that the owner and veterinarian can then use to further investigate and hopefully resolve the problem makes me proud to be in this position,” she said. “I consider my job to be part of a team that includes the owner and their veterinarian.”

For those seeking to become a veterinary diagnostician, you must first become a veterinarian with an interest in determining the cause of animal death and disease. “This job is almost like being a detective,” Jennifer said. “These days, most veterinarians at diagnostic laboratories are also board certified veterinary pathologists, which requires another 3 years of residency at a veterinary teaching hospital and a board certification exam.” Her advice, in addition to schooling and obtaining the required certifications, is to get experience in the animal agriculture world. “Having work experience in animal agriculture helps a veterinarian diagnostician relate to the needs and pressures of a farm or livestock veterinarian,” she said.

As you can see, the agriculture industry is full of amazing opportunities, and the positions detailed above are just a few of the options available. No matter what you are pursuing a degree in, the agriculture industry has a path that you can travel and enjoy for many years to come. We hope you will join the team and leave your mark on our state’s number one industry!