Today's blog was submitted by Lance Atwater, a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in Agricultural Economics and minoring in International Agriculture. Lance grew up on a family farm in South Central Nebraska and got a start in the agriculture industry at a young age and has been actively involved in it since then. You can follow Lance on twitter at @latwater1 or visit his blog called "A Growing Passion."
Several years ago, a person didn't hear much about farming unless they lived in a rural community. People that were several generations removed from the farm thought of a farmer as someone who still lived in the 30's. However, in recent years farmers and ranchers have started to gain more public attention as people have become more interested in who produces their food. As the public has become more interested in where their food comes from, there has also been a growing interest in youth who are considering a career as a farmer or rancher.
This semester I have the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for a commodity marketing class. There are 144 students taking the class, and when we polled the class to see how many were interested in becoming a farmer or rancher, over half the class expressed interest and stated that they wanted to return to the family farm. I was amazed at how many were interested in becoming a farmer, especially since all we hear about these days is how the number of farmers in the U.S. continues to decline every year. This got me to thinking about what would make today's younger generation want to return to the farm. I ended up thinking of five reasons why today's youth might be interested in returning to the family farm or ranch.
Opportunity: Today, there seems to be a great amount of opportunity in the agriculture industry, especially for those interested in returning to the farm. As I mentioned earlier, the number of farmers in the U.S. continues to decline due to more farmers reaching retirement age. As farmers reach the retirement age, they end up selling or renting their assets out, such as equipment and land. This provides a great opportunity for younger individuals to get started on their own with the possibility of the retiring farmer acting as a mentor.
Technology: It is amazing how much technology is used on today's farms and ranches. This could be anything from the usage of GPS to making marketing decisions from the seat of a tractor due to the use of smart phones and tablets. This type of technology might be attractive to those thinking about a career as a farmer or rancher. It not only makes farming more efficient, but also more fun and easier to do.
Lifestyle: There is no doubt that the lifestyle of farmers and ranchers has greatly changed in recent years thanks to greater profitability in the agriculture industry. More farm families are now able to upgrade outdated vehicles and improve their family homes. Also, many farm families are able to take vacations to different locations around the U.S. and even around the world that they might not have been able to do a few years ago. Everyone wants a good lifestyle, and right now agriculture seems to be providing that for many farmers and ranchers, which makes it very attractive to younger generations.
Owner/Manager: Farming and ranching also allows a person to be their own boss. This can be appealing to younger generations who want to be able to make their own decisions and also be able to own and operate a business. Also, there seems to be a growing interest to be an entrepreneur among younger individuals, and farming and ranching can be a great entrepreneurship opportunity.
Fun: Last but not least, farming can be a fun career, despite the fact that it requires a tremendous amount of hard work. The four things I just previously mentioned is what can make farming fun for a young individual who has an interest in either taking over their family farm or starting their own. If farming weren’t fun, I think the number of farmers we currently have today would be much lower!
In my opinion, these five things are just a few of things that are sparking the interest in younger generations to pursue a career as a farmer or rancher. However, while farming can be a great career for a young individual, it is important to remember that a person must be willing to accept the risks that go along with farming and ranching, such as volatile commodity markets. While farming is profitable today, it is also important for those considering a career as a farmer or rancher to keep in mind that agriculture may not always be profitable since it tends to be a cyclical industry. There is no doubt in my mind that farming and ranching is the "New Fad" and will continue to spark interest in the coming generations!