Tristesse Jones will probably never drive a tractor or guide a combine through rows of soybeans at harvest time.
There isn’t a farm within miles of where she grew up on Chicago’s west side, but she’s set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in crop sciences from the University of Illinois’ agriculture school next spring.
“People ask me what is my major, and they say ‘What is that? So you want to grow plants?’ ” Jones said.
She is one of a growing number of students being drawn to ag schools around the country not by ties to a farm but by science, the job prospects for those who are good at it and, for some, an interest in the environment.
Enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs in agriculture across the country grew by 21.8 percent from 2005 to 2008, from about 58,300 students to nearly 71,000, according to surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the numbers are likely higher – not all schools respond to the surveys.