Ag Professor: Education and Research Are Key to Feeding a Hungry World

Don Chafin Says Mechanization, Genetics and Biotechnology Have Replaced the Hoe and the Horse

March 5, 2012

Dr. Donald Chafin

Dr. Donald Chafin

Dr. Donald Chafin is dismayed at the naiveté and misinformed opinion stated in a recent report on Yahoo News that classified agriculture, animal science and horticultural studies as among the most “useless” college degrees.

“Such misunderstanding of reality begs an answer,” said Chafin, professor of agriculture at Wilmington College.

“Likely, the author of the article traced the decline in number of farmers since the high point of employment in the 1930s,” he said.

Indeed, the technological revolution in agriculture since World War II has created a large migration of farmers off the land, as farm size has increased.

“Mechanization, genetics and biotechnology have replaced the hoe and the horse, and the need for sweat labor,” he added.

Chafin contends that is precisely why education is more important today for the businessman farmer than ever before.

“No doubt the author of the article awoke the next day expecting three square meals on the table — where does he think food comes from?” he said.

“There is an integrated chain that takes commodities from the farm gate to fork-ready food products. Farmers no longer sell live chickens to consumers,” Chafin noted. “It takes a lot of agribusiness people to service the prepared and convenient food needs of consumers.”

Chafin said the essential mix of science, technology, agribusiness and the American farmer must be up to the intimidating task over the next 20 years of providing 9 billion people with a safe, abundant and cheap food supply.

“Education and research are key to achieving success,” he said.

Chafin cited a U.S. Department of Agriculture report that indicates the nation’s agricultural colleges are producing only 70 percent of the college graduates needed by agriculture.

“Wilmington College is helping solve that deficiency,” he said, noting it is one of only two colleges in Ohio with a bachelor’s degree program in agriculture.

“Located amid the cornfields in southwest Ohio, Wilmington’s emphasis is focused upon real world farming, animal science and horticulture.”