Change Is In The Air: Young Farmers Are Bringing It On!

Nor' east Thinkin'

Ag enterprise optimism is bringing on a fresh wave of young farmers with technology skills necessary for the future.

Published on: March 15, 2013

No. the change in the air has nothing to do with spring, although it's almost here, too. It has certainly nothing to do with President Obama's recycled campaign theme.

The fresh whiff of prosperity is drawing more and more young, energized wanna-bes back into farming. In the past year, I've seen exciting signs that Northeast agriculture is being revitalized by enterprising young men and women.

Record grain and forage prices no doubt bolster ag attractiveness. New ag technologies also are beginning to revolutionize today's farming and stirring new passion for farming.

I'm not talking about "old" young farmers. I'm talking about those in their mid-20s to mid-30s. Many have "done time" in urban jobs and in highly-paid technical careers. A number have been schooled by agribusinesses – the nation's strongest employment sector since 2008.

They're returning, often with young families, and with an eagerness to replace Dad whose energy battery reads "replace me." These fresh faces are showing up in ever-greater numbers on farm organization boards, at annual meetings, at fruit and vegetable conferences, at market development meetings and farm shows.

For years, our Farm Link programs in the Northeast have encouraged older landholders make way and make ways to transition their farms to the next generation. And we've encouraged younger farming prospects to study-up on how to convert their dreams into thriving economic realities – no easy task!

Message to old-timers

Your next-generation will bring substantial changes, often necessary to earn the income necessary to pay you and support their own families. Those changes often carry greater risk for the also greater reward.  

  • Farm profit expectations often need to be ratcheted upward. After all, the old ways characteristically are to take what the market offers – generally low profit margins. You and your next generation need to think differently.
  • Your next-gen also must be given the chance to learn from their mistakes. You did.
  • Be available as a ready counsel, enabler and encourager. That means may need to provide a financial cushion – at least once. Just make sure they don't grow dependent on it.

Message to young-timers

You won't live long enough or make it in business long enough to learn all your potential mistakes. So . . .

  • Take the initiative in seeking advice of your benefactor and other experienced sources.
  • The worst thing you can do to a personal relationship is to say: "It's mine now. Go away." Those giving you help still need to be appreciated.
  • Be sure to give back to those who've helped you.

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