You don’t have to be a farmer to enjoy a career in agriculture. That was the message that educators and company representatives at Agricenter International in Memphis, Tenn., presented to 300 FFA high school students from west Tennessee attending a field day at the facility in mid-September.

The students, from six FFA chapters in Shelby and Tipton counties, learned about careers available in vital agricultural support areas, such as irrigation, farm equipment, farm research, bio-genetics, nurseries, precision farming, greenhouse maintenance and others.

“The objective of the FFA field day is to show students that there are many career opportunities in agriculture. Many of the people who work for companies that supply or service farmers may not have an agriculture background,” said Bruce Kirksey, director of research for Agricenter.

The tour included nine stops, on everything from electronics to research. Speakers included representatives from chemical and equipment companies, University of Tennessee Extension staff and Agricenter personnel.

Kirksey demonstrated Agricenter’s use of a recently-purchased Wintersteiger planter to precision-plant research plots for agricultural companies. “It has a computer system which allows us to plug in how many seeds we want to plant in each row. It’s set up on an RTK /GPS system, so not only does it drive straight, but it also knows exactly when to stop and start planting.”

Plot research is often one of the last stops for new technology, products and varieties before commercialization. The ability to test and evaluate these products under a number of environmental conditions can offer career opportunities for college graduates, Kirksey noted.

John Charles Wilson, Agricenter president, says hosting the FFA students is an effort “to open up their eyes to the opportunities in agriculture. We have one fellow who is a technician from Willie German Equipment Co., who helps farmers troubleshoot problems. These kinds of jobs are out there.”