By Sara Schafer and Jeanne Bernick
These young leaders are the new faces of agriculture
For the past 30 years, Top Producer has introduced countless note-worthy producers. With the majority of U.S. farmers older than 50, a dramatic shift is on the horizon in terms of farm leadership. Luckily, the future is extremely bright. Here’s a glimpse at the next generation of farmers.
Jeremy Jack, 30
Jeremy Jack says the hardest part about being a young producer is when people underestimate what he can do with technology. Jack farms 8,500 acres of cotton, corn, rice, soybeans and wheat, with his parents and sister.
Technology allows Jack to achieve more with less. For example, he has moved his farm to 100% variable rate twin row corn and soybean seeding rates to make every acre reach the peak of its potential.
"Even though I am a young producer, I am well equipped with technology and have a fresh thought process compared to more seasoned producers," Jack says. "Plus, I can learn from those seasoned producers."
Sustainability is a key component to Jack’s mindset. "To me, sustainability is safely and efficiently producing high-quality raw food and fiber commodities, while maximizing profitability and supporting our rural community," he says. "Our method of sustainability is sustainability in action. We believe with outreach and education we can make sustainability interesting and do a better job of educating people in urban areas."
Jack plans to implement a demonstration farm, which will have a total water reclaiming system with flow meters, automatic relift pumps and water quality monitors. He hopes to make this part of his farm tour, and writes about these new initiatives on his blog and the farm website.
"We have ample opportunities as farmers to share what we are doing," he says. "As an industry we have come a long way, but we have to do a better job of showing people outside the industry what we are doing."
Brayden Wagner, 26
Brayden Wagner knew he would return home to his family’s 6,000-acre wheat, corn, soybean and dry edible bean farm in southeast North Dakota. After high school, Wagner weighed his options and figured he could develop the needed agronomic skills with on-the-job experiences. So Wagner decided to major in accounting at Saint John’s University. This decision has paid dividends.
"I knew right away it would be an invaluable skill," he says. "Accounting has brought a wave of fresh knowledge to our farm." Wagner says his degree choice helps him make better decisions because he is more analytical. "I am constantly asking myself: How can we be more efficient? I make fewer decisions based on gut and more on data."
Wagner has been farming full-time with his father, Chad, since 2009. His role on the farm centers on financial planning. He pays the bills, organizes tax documents and makes crop insurance decisions. He is also the resident precision ag guru.
- Spring 2013