The Agricultural Business major was officially introduced to Blackburn last year, with only one student with that declared major last spring. This year, there are seven students declared as agribusiness majors. Director of Admissions Justin Norwood has been trying to introduce this major to the curriculum for seven years, and it’s finally here.
Last year, there was only one course available. Agribusiness professor Dr. Phil Hamilton is planning on introducing three more courses to the campus next year: Precision Agriculture, Data Analytics and Market Planning. Hamilton got his degree in agricultural education and has been teaching for 20 years. He is currently the only professor for the major, but he is hoping to hire an adjunct professor soon. Next year, the department is planning on hiring another professor.
This major is different from other business majors in that it has a largely science-based education. There is animal science, plant science and soil science involved. Hamilton also said, “It’s different in that it deals with perishable produce,” and that “it is a competition type product, not a value added product.” He used the example of selling a wagon. One company might be able to sell their wagon based on its features compared to their competitors. In agricultural business, you can’t claim that your corn has better features than someone else’s corn; it just doesn’t work that way.
Hamilton’s goal for the major is to build it up to 100 students. He hopes to add 20 students a year. He said the major is beneficial for Carlinville High School students who were going to travel to farther colleges to get their agricultural education; they can stay home for it now.
Norwood said, “We’re located in the heart of corn bell,” and he thought that the local high school students should be able to get their agricultural education and help their families with their farms at the same time. At the time he started advocating for the major to be taught at Blackburn, there were no small schools offering it. One of his hopes with this new major is that it will correlate with admissions and more students would want to come to Blackburn.
Sophomore agricultural business major Madelynn Sneed took the introduction class last semester, so she isn’t in an agriculture class this semester, but she’s very excited for the new classes coming soon. Sneed said, “I have decided to become an agribusiness major so that I can help with environmental struggles within the agriculture field, as well as finding sustainable solutions to feed those in poverty.” She loves her choice of this major for the professor as well. She recalled Hamilton always saying “Not only will I get you your first job, but I’ll get you your first promotion.”
In the major, there are several hands on opportunities to learn through classroom projects such as the North American Marketing Association (NAMA) marketing plans and the simulation of fertilizer and feed business. With a degree in agricultural business, students can go into careers such as value-added marketing specialist, financial professional, big data analyst, statistical and excel expert, agribusiness manager, farm and ranch manager, commodity marketing specialist, farm real estate appraiser and certified agribusiness consultant.
According to the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, “Nearly 58,000 highly-skilled agriculture job openings are expected annually in the U.S. There is an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture related fields.” Essentially this means there are a significant amount of job openings for someone who graduates with a degree in this field.