Within the wide field of agriculture, grains and oilseeds are one of the top food commodities that offer many entry-level job opportunities for almost any role. Whether you are interested in the business aspects of forming international partnerships or developing innovations on farms, the grains and oilseeds industry offers a wide variety of career paths.
Naturally, an agronomist is the first to come to mind in crop production, but there is more that meets the eye when it comes to entry level positions in agriculture. Agriculture is an industry that needs accountants, researchers, lawyers, science majors of most types, engineers for innovation in farm equipment, grain handling, and grain storage, says Dale Adolphe, executive director for the Canadian Seed Growers' Association.
By combining an agriculture background with a degree in the field, Adolphe says that one can find almost any practice in agricultural food production, processing, logistics, and marketing. Add to that the whole area of informatics, big data, GPS, and robotics. There is hardly a discipline that couldn't find a niche somewhere in Canadian agriculture. Nutritionists are another example, communicators, public relations, the list is almost endless.
The grains and oilseeds sector is most dominant within Central and Western Canada. Wheat, in particular, has always reigned over the years but Adolphe indicates that canola has taken over that position in recent years. Other major crops, depending on what region of Canada you are in, include barley, oats, peas, and lentils in the west, and soybeans in the east, he says.
Adolphe says that soybeans are beginning to have a noticeable growth in the western landscape starting in Manitoba and now expanding into Saskatchewan and, to a lesser extent, Alberta. Canola, soybeans, and malting barley are likely the biggest value added crops in Canada in terms of the amount that is processed in Canada. He includes that grasses, forages, and legumes are a whole industry dedicated to supplying the livestock sector.
In order to get into the agriculture industry you will need a science degree in any agriculture-related field. It's important to know that agriculture is the process of food production which has multiple stages. It starts with a plant breeder developing a new variety of a crop and it works its way through multiplication, commercial production, primary, secondary and tertiary processing and, ultimately, as a whole food or as a food ingredient, it ends up on a consumer's table, says Adolphe.
Also, just as in any other job, Adolphe believes that strong communication and people skills are just as important in the field. Maintaining interpersonal relationships has been taken to the next level with today's social media. People need the ability to express themselves in a clear and understandable manner, whether that is on a smartphone, a Twitter account, in front of an auditorium of 300 people or at an office meeting with your peers, he says.
Also, Adolphe stresses the importance of the ability to analyze situations, troubleshoot, and strategize. These skills are critical as you move up the line of responsibility and authority. These latter qualities come from experience in an industry, understanding the industry, and can be assisted with education, but practical experience is hard to beat even against theory, says Adolphe.
Being export-dependent, Canadian agriculture competes with other countries such as China, Brazil, and other Eastern European countries. Unlike these countries, Canada is not a low-cost producer. This has been the case for most of our exporting history, says Adolphe. So what Canada has done over several decades is develop a reputation for quality, consistency, and reliability. It is on those three pillars that Canada continues to compete in the international market more so than strictly on price.
Adolphe states graduates should act local and think global in terms of working in the agriculture industry. This is a global industry and we are but one part of it interacting between local players and the international marketplace, he says.
To learn more about other top food commodities within Canada including dairy, horticulture and more, visit Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.