Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources

Think about life without agriculture, food and natural resources. What would we eat? Who would create and maintain the parks that help us relax and enjoy nature? How would we know whether our drinking water is safe? This industry has a huge impact on our daily lives, and — like other industries — technology has brought about changes in the way it operates.

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) map natural resource areas to check forest health, evaluate soil erosion, and inventory wildlife populations. Large farms increasingly use GPS systems to help steer machinery more precisely and computer-based maps to prescribe amounts of fertilizer, seed, and chemicals for specific areas.

The Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources cluster contains occupations that require all levels of training. Nonfarm animal caretaker and refuse and recyclable materials collector positions are among the fastest-growing occupations that require the least training in this cluster. Jobs that usually require associate and bachelor’s degrees such as environmental science and protection technicians, environmental engineers, and natural science managers are also projected to increase. Employers who often hire workers in this cluster include farmers; federal, state, and local governments; pest control businesses; and landscaping companies.

Print Career Cluster

Core Skills

The following Core Skills are necessary for success in these occupations.

  • Science - Using scientific rules and strategies to solve problems
  • Operation & Control - Using equipment or systems
  • Equipment Maintenance - Planning and doing the basic maintenance on equipment
  • Repairing - Repairing machines or systems using the right tools
  • Equipment Selection - Deciding what kind of tools and equipment are needed to do a job
  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or display screens to make sure a machine is working
  • Management of Material Resources - Managing equipment and materials
  • Troubleshooting - Figuring out what is causing equipment, machines, wiring, or computer programs to not work
  • Management of Financial Resources - Making spending decisions and keeping track of what is spent
  • Quality Control Analysis - Testing how well a product or service works

Career Pathways

Career Story

Alena Yang

Mitchell Community College

Agribusiness Program

"I love that — the understanding of ‘hey, we’re here to help you excel.’"

Alena Yang has growing plans for her future, figuratively and literally. One of Mitchell Community College’s first Agribusiness graduates, Alena started at Mitchell in 2013 taking finance classes. When the Agribusiness program started in fall 2014, she shifted her program of study because of an interest that was sparked in high school.

Agribusiness tied together her two passions of studying business and learning the science behind agriculture. In May 2016, Yang received her Associate in Applied Science degree in Agribusiness Technology.

Now a student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) in Greensboro, Yang notes she has found her calling in agricultural studies. “Studying agribusiness at Mitchell and NC A&T has really changed my perspective on how we transport, process, and consume commodities,” Yang said.

Yang reflects that beginning her educational journey at the community college level has been nothing short of life-changing. "Mitchell Community College’s Agribusiness program opened my eyes to how everything in the agriculture industry goes hand-in-hand,” she said. “Being a part of this program has had a huge impact on my life.”

One of Alena’s favorite things about her community college experience is the connections she has made during her studies. Meeting a lot of different people from diverse backgrounds, she enjoyed finding similarities and building friendships. “The agribusiness program is like a small family. We all help each other,” she noted. Yang recognizes how important this network has been and will be for her future.

The support Alena received at Mitchell made a huge impact on her journey. “The faculty and staff were so professional and knowledgeable!” she says. “Everyone is welcome, and everyone is welcoming. And I love that--the understanding of ‘hey, we’re here to help you and help you to excel.’”

While at NC A&T, Yang has had the opportunity to intern with the School of Agriculture, researching food scarcity in rural communities and food deserts. Yang plans to finish her bachelor’s degree in agribusiness and food industry management with a certificate in entrepreneurship in May 2018.

Yang encourages others to explore the world of agriculture as an educational and career path. “If you are passionate about agriculture, the food system, or just in the business of agriculture, opportunities are out there to advance,” she says. The future of agriculture is closely tied to sustainability. “Learning how to protect what we have and educating the next generation on how to do the same is so important. Knowing where your food comes from is key!”

Go to Career Cluster Matrix to find occupations by cluster and interest type.