Even though I have been out of school for just over 20 years, I still get the back to school jitters just as we are finishing up the grain and hay harvest in late August. If you don’t frequent farming circles then you may not be familiar with the term Aggie. Simply put, an Aggie is a nickname for a student of agriculture. I remember attending an open house at the University of Guelph when I was about 7 years old. I saw a number of students wearing shiny leather jackets with the name Aggie in big bold letters across the back. I remember my dad telling me that I might be an Aggie someday if I work hard in school. Low and behold it happened. I graduated in 1994 with an honours degree in Animal Science at the OAC (Ontario Agricultural College) at University of Guelph.
Aggies are a diverse crowd. Many have farming backgrounds. In my class I remember students that came from every kind of farm imaginable. There were crop farms, cattle farms, horse farms, pig farms, sheep farms, fish farms and even a winery. However, being a farm kid isn’t a prerequisite to becoming an Aggie. In fact, a number of my classmates came from non-farm backgrounds, but we still shared a love for all things agriculture. Some students even used the agriculture program as a stepping stone to get into veterinary school since many of our courses overlapped.
You may be wondering what an Aggie might learn at school. Well, you may be surprised by the vast array of topics that an Aggie can take. For me in the animal science program, my courses were very science based. We took many of the same courses a regular science student would have taken in our first couple of years like microbiology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics, calculus, statistics, botany etc. In our final couple of years our courses became more specific and were related more to animals and agriculture. For example, we took quantitative genetics, animal nutrition, animal physiology, animal behaviour and animal ethics courses.
What can you do with an Aggie degree or diploma? Almost anything! Did you know that 1 in 8 of all jobs are in agriculture and 2.1 million Canadians are employed in agricuture? In 2013 there were 56,000 career opportunities for people with an education in agriculture, but sadly from 2011-2020 it is estimated that 38% of jobs in Canadian agriculture won’t be filled. (source http://www.agmorethanever.ca). I have friends that went back to their family farms or into research, government, sales, marketing, teaching and a vast array of other jobs.
There are many stereotypes when it comes to Aggies. It’s true that many of us know how to two-step, or square dance. Heck, some of us even drive pick up trucks and listen to country music. However, the next time that you see an agriculture student wearing one of those distinctive Aggie jackets, I challenge you to say hello. You will find that Aggies are generally some of the most polite and well rounded people that you will ever meet. They are the future of agriculture and you can rest assure that your food is in good hands.