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Is Your Job Tied to Agriculture?

Have you ever thought about all the jobs connected to agriculture? It’s more than just farmers.

I was reading a report about North Carolina agriculture and our contribution to the state’s economy. I knew our industry added $76 billion in value, but I didn’t realize how many jobs were tied to farming. 

1 in 6.  

In my state, 1 out of every 6 jobs is tied to agriculture. That’s 17% of all jobs in North Carolina – 633,000 – connected to ag.

There are 74,062 farmers in our state. So who are the other 558,938 workers connected to agriculture? Looking at our farm, it’s easy to make a list of just some (not all) of the jobs that lead back to our soil.

Let’s follow the corn from our farm. We buy the seed, fertilzer, lime, and other inputs from various companies, working with their sales staff. The crop is planted and harvested and all that happens in between. After harvest, corn is taken to a grain mill by a truck driver, where it will be stored. Some of the grain will be shipped across the country or oversees, traveling by train to a port, before being loaded onto a ship and carried to the next destination.

If taken to a feed mill, the corn will be made into livestock feed. Much of our corn is used for pigs or poultry. Each of those has nutritionists who develop recipes (which include corn) for the food the animals eat. Workers make the food, it is trucked to the farms, where it is fed by farmers to their animals. 

Let’s not forget the equipment companies whose engineers designed, workers built, and salesmen sold us the tractor, planter, combine, grain cart, and other equipment we use for corn. The graphic designers and companies who designed the logos, ads, commercials, and other marketing to promote their product.  

We can’t leave out the technology gurus who design all the tech we use: GPS, auto steer, and more. Pig and poultry farmers use technology to monitor their animals 24 hours a day, often from their cell phones. Someone has to write the software, develop the technology, and provide technical support.  

Now let’s follow sweet potatoes from my farm to your plate. We plant seed potatoes, then care for them until it’s time to cut the sprouts and transplant them. This is not a one-man job. Just setting sweet potato slips, using an eight-row transplanter, actually takes more than 10 people. Harvest takes even more workers, since each sweet potato is harvested by hand. From our farm, they go to a packing house which employees workers. The roots leave and are driven by a truck driver to their next destination. If this is a grocery store, they go to the chain’s warehouse, are unloaded by workers, and then stored until they are trucked to individual stores. The produce department unloads the sweet potatoes and keeps them stocked in the produce section. Another worker runs them across the scanner as you pay in the checkout line.

If you order a sweet potato in a restaurant, it traveled from the farm, the packing house, and a wholesale company before ending up in the restaurant’s kitchen. A chef or other professional cooked it and a waiter brought it to your table. Without our farm and other farms that grow the food your order, that waiter wouldn’t have a job.

We don’t grow it, but we can’t talk about jobs related to agriculture without including cotton. It starts with the farmer who grows and harvests the crop. From the field, cotton goes to the cotton gin that separates the fiber from the seed. It then heads to a spinner, where it is spun into fiber and made into clothes following a pattern created by a fashion designer. The clothes are trucked to a store, where a salesperson helps you find the right size of jeans. 

While a farmer might seem like the only person employed by agriculture, the reality is many jobs lead back to agriculture. Does yours?

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