Applied Economics Teaching Resources

an AAEA Journal

Agricultural and Applied Economics Association

Special Issue: Designing Agribusiness Education for Changing Student Demographics and Employer Needs

Deadline: June 30, 2024

Applied Economics and Teaching Resources is calling for manuscripts related to agribusiness education and curriculum. Agribusiness programs are simultaneously grappling with changing student demographics and evolving employer needs. Continued consolidation across all agricultural sectors means that fewer students are growing up on farms and ranches than in previous generations. Additionally, automation and technological change are rapidly transforming agricultural supply chains.  This change has contributed to a growing gap between the skills and knowledge sets that agribusiness programs prioritize and what employers within the food supply chain value (Johnson, Downey, and Holcomb, 2023). Agribusiness programs must both broaden their appeal to students without an agricultural background and adapt curriculum to ensure students are given the tools they need to thrive after graduation. Programs that achieve these objectives will help empower the next generation of problem solvers to grapple with increasingly intricate challenges within the food value chain. Departments that cannot meet these objectives may experience decreased enrollment and struggle to place graduates.

We are seeking submissions that address the following concerns:

  • General Decline in College Students Nationally and Changing Backgrounds: Agribusiness programs face enrollment challenges from two fronts. First, declines in the population that is college age, along with growing skepticism of higher education from the public, will shrink the pool of students attending a university at the national level. Second, fewer students are growing up on farms and ranches each year, which shrinks the pool of students that traditionally formed the cornerstone of agribusiness programs. To avoid declining enrollment, agribusiness programs will need to appeal to a wider demographic of students. This is likely to create challenges in instruction and require content to focus on skills, as well as agriculture specific content. Research contributions could include curriculum aimed at addressing this change or analysis aimed at measuring this change and predicting its impacts on recruitment.
  • Disparity in Defining Agribusiness Bounds: There has been a growing discussion over the identity of agribusiness as a discipline. There are increasing employment opportunities in parts of the supply chain far from the farm gate, but agribusiness programs risk losing their core competencies if they become too general. Individual departments may have responded to this question in unique ways. Thus, having a discussion on what programs offer in their curriculum in terms of courses, electives, concentrations, experiential learning or opportunities for learning outside of the classroom would be illuminating.
  • Generational Gaps: Each generation grows up exposed to different social and cultural landscapes than previous generations. These changing experiences can impact the average skill and deficiency levels students within an age group have for various topics (e.g. stronger technological savvy than the previous generations but weaker communication skills on average). Discussions of necessary adjustments to the curriculum in order to leverage generational strengths and help refine generational skill gaps would benefit the future positioning of agribusiness programs. A few examples of topics within this vein include work that measures these generational changes or work that presents pedagogical contributions for addressing them in the classroom.
  • Evolving Employer Needs and Trends: Personal characteristics and essential (or soft) skills draw top billing by the agribusiness profession when evaluating graduates for potential employment. However, the business and economic knowledge held by graduates still remains a high priority for agribusinesses. Agribusinesses have also started putting more emphasis on the lower ranked areas of technical knowledge, computer skills, and work experiences. This presents a challenge for programs on how to balance developing graduates skills and knowledge while maintaining limited credit hours. Perspectives and practices that speak to how programs can shift classes, curriculum, or teaching methods to help students to be competitive in the job market and valued by agribusiness hiring personnel would push the academy forward to meet the future challenges. Particular interest will be given to work that highlights insights from industry shareholders or provides survey results.

We expect this special issue to facilitate a discussion of innovative ideas aimed at supporting recruitment, curriculum and course development, teaching methods, and outreach to industry. By addressing these issues, agribusiness programs can ensure that graduates are well-equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st-century agricultural sector and food supply chain. This special issue would serve as a valuable resource for educators striving to shape the future of agribusiness education. Authors are encouraged to submit any type of work that fits within the four categories discussed.  The special issue will have three guest co-editors Dr. Tanner McCarty (, Dr. Anastasia Thayer ( and Dr. Aaron Johnson (  in addition to the AETR Editor, Dr. Jason Bergtold (

Special Issue Timeline:
If you are interested in making a submission to the special issue, please submit a 300 word abstract to Dr. Anastasia Thayer ( by June 30, 2024 at the latest. The abstract should describe the overall theme/topic of the manuscript, how it relates to the special issue call, and how it can be used for educational purposes. Your abstract will be reviewed once submitted and you will then be informed if you will be invited to submit a submission to the special issue. Full papers for accepted abstracts must be submitted through AETR online by December 31, 2024. All papers will go through a double-blind peer review process and be available online via Advanced Access for readers once accepted. All submissions will need to follow the AETR submission guidelines at: If you have questions about the special issue, please email the special issue editors.