Milking a cow for 12 hours a week during a semester in return for free housing is markedly different from the expected college experience. For University of Connecticut students it’s a pretty sweet deal, especially when all that milk is used to produce ice cream and cheese at an on-campus dairy bar.
Animal science majors in the agriculture department at the college, such as senior Cassandra Leone, have traditional lecture instruction in raising and caring for various species. It’s learning those practical skills that makes a degree in agriculture an increasingly popular choice for college students.
Related majors have also become more popular in recent years. The University of Connecticut has seen its agriculture department enrollment more than double in the last eight years, according to a USA TODAY article.
Cameron Faustman, associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut, attributes the increase to agriculture’s breadth. While livestock and farming are most recognized, there are many other options to choose from the field.
“The point we like to make as to why students may be finding colleges of agriculture of increased interest is because our programs are concerned with connecting food, people and health in a manner that is economically viable and environmentally sustainable,” Faustman wrote in an email.
Other agriculture choices at the University of Connecticut include majors in natural resources, dietetics and turfgrass and soil science.
Other schools also see opportunities offered by the agriculture industry. At the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, the agriculture department is building a new agriculture learning center within walking distance of the main campus.
It will serve as a “hands-on, living classroom for students to learn about farming and the horticultural, nursery and landscape industries,” according to a press release from the university. Completion is expected by 2014, but Stephen Herbert, director of the university’s Center for Agriculture, said some students could start using it by next year.
“If we can do more, why not have this idea of having a center where students can go and get training related to practical farming instead of labs or greenhouses?” said Herbert.
It will be “a place you can learn but also make mistakes,” he said.
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