Ohio's job future may well be tied to its oldest economy -- agriculture. In today's story on good jobs in bad times, WKSU's Tim Rudell reports that the definition of agriculture is expanding almost daily, and that the new and old jobs connected to it add up ...

Tim Rudell

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Ohio's job future may well be tied to its oldest economy -- agriculture. In today's story on good jobs in bad times, WKSU's Tim Rudell reports that the definition of agriculture is expanding almost daily, and that the new and old jobs connected to it add up ...
     Ohio's job future may well be tied to its oldest economy - agriculture.
     The definition of agriculture is expanding almost daily, and the jobs connected to it are adding up. Agriculture is no longer just plows and cows, though the traditional farming lifestyle has an increasing appeal.
     "I think, especially in the current situation, the nature of employment will probably change a little bit," said Jim Curry of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster. "Maybe people actually realize that they kind of like staying home, even if the economy changes. Same thing for food production. Maybe it becomes your job where you get into, 'I sell what I make.'"
     But the traditional idea of farming also is growing, as are the jobs related to it. Congressman Steve LaTourette said he has seen a lot of these in his northeast Ohio district since his election.
     "I think when I was elected, there were two wineries and now there are 22. Obviously that is a big employer out in Ashtabula and eastern Lake County. Also, I just met two guys that are growing algae. ... One is turning it into jet fuel and one is turning it into gasoline and feed for hogs."
New tech, new numbers
     For sheer job creation, the new agriculture and ag-tech sector's numbers are impressive and the range of jobs is extensive.
Schmack is a company working with partners at the Agriculture Research Center to develop a bio-digester technology that turns manure into fuel for homes, businesses, cars and trucks. The goal is to replace oil dependence with something organic and solve the waste disposal problem at the same time. If the industry Schmack envisions rolls out to its full potential, 7,000 jobs will be created statewide.
Bill Ravlin of the Ag Research Center said that the continuing development of ideas and projects like the bio-digesters is extremely important to Ohio's future.      "One in seven jobs is tied to the ag-bio-sciences sector," Ravlin said. "And it accounts for somewhere close to a million jobs."
Not all jobs related to agriculture are tied to the future. Landscaping and landscape architecture already provide lots of job and some continue to grow. Jason Pugh is operations director for Enviroscapes, an eco-conscious landscaping company in Stark County.
     "We're at 25 to 50 percent growth a year," Pugh said. "As we get bigger, we're shooting more for the 15 to 20 percent growth a year. Even in this economy, with 100 people [during] peak season, close to 45 on payroll all year long, it's enough to keep us all busy."
Big and small animals a growth industry
     Veterinary technology is another growing job field, not only for mainstream agriculture and traditional pet care, but in fields as diverse as pharmaceutical sales and anti-terrorism security.
Kent State University Tuscarawas Campus has one of six accredited veterinary technology programs in Ohio. Director Ronald Southerland says opportunities are rapidly increasing.
    "The number of veterinary technician programs in the country has just been booming," Southerland said. "We're seeing the demand for large animal veterinary technicians increase as well."
    Other community colleges are cashing in on new industry agriculture by launching associate degree programs. For example, Terra Community College in Fremont has a program for wind power technologists.
    Ohio State's Agricultural Technical Institute's Director Steve Namath says there aren't even enough graduates to fill all the old-school jobs related to farming.
     "Just recently we had some folks come and talk to us about hydraulics, hydraulics maintenance, those types of things," Namath said. "There's just more jobs out there than there [are graduates]. And you can get into robotics and all kinds of things. The salaries in a lot of these areas, even with a technical degree, a two-year degree, you can start in the $40,000 range."
     The derailment of the broader economy has had a positive effect on the ag sector. Congressman Tim Ryan says that new technology and business ideas related to agriculture had been stuck on lab tables and drawing boards while investors and government leaders focused on traditional industry. But now they're willing to consider emerging industries.
     "The next phase of energy development is going to be much more regionally developed, and it's going to be agricultural based," Ryan speculated. "So, I think Ohio is strategically positioned to contribute in a large way.
     "It fits into a broader economic puzzle where you have the agriculture, we have the manufacturing, ... we have the location as far as being able to distribute. We have the universities as far as coming up with the next best ideas. So, I'm pretty confident about where Ohio's going to be."





American Society Of Agricultural and Biological Engineers


Commercial Recruiter

Employment Crossing



USA government jobs website

USDA agriculture research jobs

USDA/Department of Energy combined website on Biomass Research

USDA Bio-preferred products

US agricultural Census data and abstracts, from 2007 Agri-Census

United Producers, Inc

Site with specialized info on teens working in agricultural jobs


New Uses Council

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Ohio State Ag and aqua -culture

Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center

Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center

Jobs in agriculture and in conservation

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