Life on the Farm

May 26, 1991

The above headline is intentionally misleading.

It describes the urban misconception about what farming is all about. Yet the fact is that only two percent of those working for the U.S. agricultural industry do so at the production end on farms. Most, in fact, work in such related fields as agricultural banking, supplies, marketing, landscaping, even on golf courses.

Until last academic year, the Carroll County public school system was an unwitting victim of this misconception by teaching courses that assumed students would be working in production jobs. There wasn't much interest: only 247 pupils took those elective courses.

When the curriculum was revamped this year to reflect the broader nature of agriculture, attendance shot up to 599. That's about 10 percent of the 5,500 students in grades 9 through 12, where 22 elective agriculture courses are offered. Those courses range from forestry and wildlife to veterinary science and leadership development.

"The majority of students taking classes don't come from farming facilities," reports David Miller, Carroll's supervisor of vocational and technology education. Which is exactly how it should be in a traditionally rural county that is being transformed into a bedroom community for Baltimore and Washington.

Agriculture continues to be a $150-million-a-year business in Carroll. The county's 1,200 farms, including 200 dairy farms, are among the top producers in Maryland.

We are heartened by Carroll students' interest in farming topics. Many sectors of the agriculture industry are desperately short of qualified personnel. Elective courses are a splendid introduction a field which many college-bound kids may want to consider as a career opportunity.

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