Misperceptions about farming almost are as diverse as the crops produced in Washington.
That is saying a mouthful. With about 230 crops grown here, we're second in the nation (behind California) when it comes to variety.
Despite the complexity, some people still discount the profession and make light of the importance of the ag industry, branding farm folks as unskilled country bumpkins.
Others romanticize farming with dreaming that it's a relaxing way to making a living off the soil with a few chickens and a vegetable garden and a small tractor to putter about.
What many of us know around here is the truth: Farming is hard and sometimes thankless work that increasingly requires the use of technology to survive and thrive.
In recent years, Columbia Basin College has focused on educating a new crop of students about the importance of agriculture and the career opportunities that abound.
And they are not talking about just driving a tractor all day -- although tractors have come a long way with GPS units, air conditioning and stereos, not to mention advanced controls for more efficient farming.
This past week, Alex McGregor wrapped up a guest lecture series in Ag Business Concepts at CBC.
Anyone familiar with agriculture knows the McGregor name. McGregor's family came to the Palouse as sheepherders in the 1800s. His father started a farm supply store that has evolved into a fertilizer manufacturing company, and it now has a diverse portfolio of operations from seed development to software.
McGregor took the most common path, which is to be born into an agricultural family. But that isn't the only option.
And it's also no longer good enough to just stay on the farm for a lifetime without expanding one's knowledge base to keep up with ever-changing technologies that create efficiencies previous generations only could dream about.
He wants the young students at CBC, whose interest in agriculture is clear by their participation in the program, to be ambassadors, letting the world know about the great careers to be had in the industry, and that many of those jobs are not the stereotypical tasks some would think.
McGregor's son, for example, has developed a computer program that combines data from satellites and aerial photos to help farmers make decisions about their crops.
Engineering, research and marketing all are career paths in agriculture.
Several large produce and fertilizer companies are in the Mid-Columbia, with employees engaged in worldwide sales and marketing endeavors from Qatar to Russia.
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan are tragic reminders of the global reach of Washington agriculture.
The implications for the local ag community are vast, affecting sales of hay, wheat and many other items. Local cattleman raised $18,000 this week to send to Japan for disaster relief.
With 40 students in CBC's revived ag program, the school is making a difference in the ag industry, preparing students for the demands and diversity of opportunities there.
But, as a whole, the industry isn't attracting enough young people to fill its needs.
With efforts like CBC's program, outreach from industry executives such as McGregor and education of the broader community about agriculture's importance and the opportunities available, we hope many more young people will be looking to agriculture as a career.
The work may be hard at times, but it's always rewarding. Washington's farmers literally help feed the world.