College ag student expands job search

The past few months have been eventful for college senior Dylan Pratt. He's lost his grandfather and taken on a satisfying new responsibility at school. He's also expanded his horizons -- and his job search.

Dyan Pratt, a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota-Crookston, has been hired to help the university host the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture judging contest April 14 to 16 in Crookston. (John Brose, Special to Agweek.)

The past few months have been eventful for college senior Dylan Pratt. He's lost his grandfather and taken on a satisfying new responsibility at school. He's also expanded his horizons -- and his job search.

"I'm taking a broader look (at job possibilities). A lot has happened," says Pratt, who remains optimistic of landing a job in agriculture.

Pratt, a student at the University of Minnesota Crookston, was profiled in the Oct. 14 Agweek cover article that looked at the robust job market for college ag students. At the time, the animal science major hoped to land a job involving beef cattle near his family farm in Clarissa, Minn., which would allow him, at least in a small way, to be active in the family operation.

But the recent death of his 93-year-old grandfather, Art Pratt, who farmed at Clarissa, led Dylan to reconsider his job preference. Dylan spent time with his grandpa before he died, and Art talked about his own brief experiences as a young man on a California dairy farm. Art, who later returned to the family farm, stressed that he benefitted from working in California.

"What he told me broadened my outlook. It made me realize getting away from home for a while might be a good thing," Dylan says.


He and his grandfather shared a love of agriculture. The first lines of Art's obituary indicate how important ag was to him: The animals are fed, he's baled the hay, the chores are complete, it's the end of the day. Arthur Orlo Pratt, 93, finished his chores and hung up his pitchfork on Jan. 31, 2015, after a short illness.

Art had a long, good life, and "I hope I can be half the man he was," Dylan says.

New responsibility

In another change, Dylan has become a student representative on a search committee for a new ag faculty member at UMC. Current faculty recommended him for the committee.

"They (faculty) must have a pretty good opinion of me. It's nice to know that," he says.

Though he appreciates the honor and enjoys the duties involved, the position involves a fair amount of time and effort.

"I've just been really busy," which cuts into the time he can spend on his job search, he says.

Since he last talked with Agweek in late 2014, Pratt has applied for one job: a lab supervisor at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La. A faculty member at UMC, who has connections to the Louisiana school, encouraged Pratt to apply for the position. Pratt, a lab assistant at UMC, did so, reflecting his broader horizons.


Shortly after he applied, he received a response from the Louisiana school: the position had been filled already.

"They filled it pretty fast. That was a little disappointing," he says.

Supply and demand

But Pratt remains confident of landing a good job -- and with good reason. Though crop prices have plunged, the demand for college ag students still exceeds their supply.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture study estimated that from 2010 to 2015, the agricultural, food and renewable natural resource sector will generate 54,400 annual openings for people with baccalaureate or higher degrees in food, renewable energy and environmental specialties.

The study also estimated that only 53,500 qualified graduates will be available each year to fill those 54,400 openings.

Strong livestock prices, especially for cattle, make the job outlook for Pratt even better.

A few of his fellow senior ag students at UMC already have secured post-graduation jobs. At the other extreme, some have barely started their job search.


"I guess I'm in the middle somewhere," he says, noting that he won't graduate until spring.

"I still think it's going to work out. That hasn't changed," he says. "What's different now is, I'm looking farther from home."

Agweek will continue to follow Pratt's job search.

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