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North Eastern Branch Meeting–Agricultural Sciences Major—a New Vision for Our Beloved Earth

Portland, Maine (Lobster Eating Place)

Portland, Maine (Lobster Eating Place, I am in the center with NIKE)

There are few countries in the world like the United States, whose farming population is well below 2% while at the same time achieving astounding productivity. Ever since the beginning of the last century, this percentage has been going down dramatically in the New World, the adoption of modern technologies such fertilizers and machineries, which culminated during the Green Revolution, have certainly served as a boost for this trend. However, as our world is confronted with more and more environmental problems, water shortage and quality degradation, pollution, energy crisis, soil erosion, agriculture–one of the major sources of these dire problems has been regarded by emerging generations as the solution for a better life on earth.

In this year’s North Eastern Branch Meeting of CSSA, ASA, and SSSA (Crop Science Society of America, Agronomy Society of America and Soil Science Society of America), faculties and extension educators talked about how the establishment of majors, such as Cornell’s Agricultural Sciences (AgSci) and Penn State’s Agro-Ecology (, can meet this demand from young people—going back to agriculture and make a difference to the world. Such enthusiasm of engaging in agriculture has been well reflected in our fall semester enrollment—more than doubled since last year. What is even more inspiring that one the very same day when we were in the meeting, I read an article from USA Today, entitled “On tiny plots, a new generation of farmers emerges”. It said now that the tide has begun turning direction, though still insignificantly for the USDA’s statistics, but there is a consensus in the farming world that “there is something afoot”. People turn to agriculture, particularly organic agriculture, not only for the money, they are actually “creating something real—the food people eat—and at the same time healing the earth”. Accompanied with this emerging interest towards agriculture over the years, is the visionary advocacy from the academia.

Our AgSci major creates an interdisciplinary environment that fosters a new vision toward the diverse aspects of agriculture. Students are able to self-assemble courses fit for them related to agriculture (which is just encyclopedic as culture) with unprecedented width of choices. I have benefited a lot from our major; it grants me with a brand new perspective for agriculture, which I deem very important for the country where I come from—China, and also our beloved earth.

Nevertheless, the more choices you have, sometimes the more perplexed you become. As reflected by a couple faculties in Penn State and other schools, an interdisciplinary major, especially when it is too young ( Penn’s was founded in 1998 and ours was 2006), may potentially have its students confused about what exactly they want to do after graduation. Students need more direction as those emerging young farmers in their tiny plots whose start-up error margin (the buffering capacity of the job that allows you to make mistakes) is small. Time is precious.

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