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A Farmer In Space?

In the classic science-fiction film Star Wars, the character Han Solo turns to Luke Skywalker during a heated space travel scene and says, "Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy!"

Well, Han Solo may be wrong.

The SpaceX company is one of a handful of companies in the world whose scientists and engineers are producing rockets and spacecraft that company leaders including CEO Elon Musk hope will one day lead to a completely privatized space travel industry with an ultimate goal of "making humanity a multiplanet species." The company is based in Hawthorne, California, but has facilities and employees in Florida; Washington, D.C.; and Texas.

What's this got to do with agriculture? SpaceX officials recently announced a farmer in Texas will soon become one of the company's 3,000 employees.

Responsibilities of the job include planning and executing budgets, operating and maintaining machinery, nailing down crop inputs, and maintaining the ability to "understand the implications of the weather and make contingency plans," according to a SpaceX report. The job takes at least 10 years of "row-crop farming experience" in central Texas, "which shall include a working knowledge of every process required for crop production in the region," according to SpaceX. The candidate also needs "Experience in repair and preventative maintenance of John Deere agricultural equipment."

So, is SpaceX sending a farmer to space? Though company officials have been tight-lipped about why they're hiring a farmer, there's speculation that the position has as much to do with the company's operating budget as it does with devising ways to grow food in space. Agricultural use nets tax-exempt status for not just land, but the tools, equipment, and inputs used for growing crops or raising livestock in Texas.

Though SpaceX's ultimate goals in hiring a farmer have yet to be specifically outlined, it's clear company leaders intend for the position's occupant to both continue farm work and have at least some role in the company's operations.

"This position will be required to work around test schedules as necessary to ensure that successful crop production does not interfere with testing progress," according to a statement from SpaceX's website.

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