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The Mindset of the Ag Industry's Next Generation

Date: 
Author: 
Jacob Chapman
Educational Opportunities: 
Articles
Interests: 
Grain, Dairy, Swine, Beef, Young, Beginning Farmers
Home > Education & Events > August 2019 > The Mindset of the Ag Industry's Next Generation
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If you’ve been involved in agriculture for a while, the current downturn we are experiencing may draw comparisons of other times when the ag industry has experienced low prices, high farmland costs and tightening margins. However, for those who are newer to agriculture, these current conditions are a first. Despite today’s circumstances, when young or beginning farmers look toward the future of agriculture, what do they see? Having the opportunity to work with young or beginning farmers on a daily basis, I’m often met with a great passion, determination and optimism for the future of our industry.

While it is imperative that young or beginning farmers are proactive in finding the resources and industry partners to assist in their first land purchase, gain access to equipment and build good financial habits, what I see as being one of the greatest differentiators is their mindset in rising to the challenge of feeding our growing world in today’s challenging environment.

Being Open Minded. On a general basis, the young and beginning farmers I work with tend to be more open minded to trying new practices or adopting the latest technology if it means greater efficiencies or a higher quality product. It shouldn’t be a surprise that many in the industry are branching out and diversifying their operations to benefit from additional revenue opportunities on their farms. Some examples that come to mind are participating in local farmers markets, selling freezer beef directly to the consumer, getting involved in contract barns and renting out hunting land. Continually looking outward to gauge other opportunities that might be on the horizon, and keeping an open mind, will allow you to be more proactive in taking advantage of new ideas that come your way.

Sourcing Out Partnerships. Often times, farming isn’t a business that can be done alone. As we look to the future, the amount of information and skills a producer is expected to have will only continue to grow. Seeking out partnerships that add value to your farm operation will help bring balance, clarity and different viewpoints assisting you in understanding the latest trends and farming innovations, market conditions and impacts of global events on the local farming economy. Building a team of trusted industry advisors or partners will also aid in keeping you and your operation more agile. When seeking out partners, make sure they are a good fit for you and your operation, you don’t want to build a team that is too like-minded, as it may be difficult to be challenged to find new or different solutions. Look for partners who complement and balance out your skills and areas of expertise.

A few examples of partnerships you might want on your bench include a lender, grain marketer, agronomist, seed sales representative, crop insurance agent, veterinarian and an accountant. Building out your team of partners will help get you and your operation to the next level as you navigate challenges together and lean on their expertise and insights.

Seek Out Experiences. As with many industries, due to evolving technology and changing consumer habits, it is important to continually educate yourself and seek out opportunities to better understand the changes around you. If you are looking to diversify, have a particular area that you don’t know much about or want to challenge yourself to learn about a specific technique or process, use your network of partnerships to find ways to build that knowledge. Whether it is by attending tradeshows, industry events, conferences, online webinars or learning one-on-one with a trusted advisor, seek those out to help you become a better manager for your operation. Your partners might also be able to connect you with mentors who can share their experiences and advice.

Patience. It’s understandable that young or beginning farmers want to hit the ground running, but it’s critical to be aware of the risk factors when making decisions. You want to grow your portfolio, but you want to do it in a way that makes sense for your individual situation. In some cases, the only opportunity for growing a land base is getting involved in a high-cash rent deal. It’s paramount to evaluate and weigh those decisions carefully, you don’t want to have to turn down future opportunities because you took advantage of a wrong one.

Patience also comes into play when working across generations. Perhaps things aren’t progressing at the rate you want them to, either as a young farmer looking to get more involved or as a more experienced farmer looking for the next generation to start taking over. Work on building your team and take time to communicate plans for the future with them. Often times, it isn’t feasible for the younger generation to fully buy out the generation currently in control, but putting a plan in place is a great first step. And, be proactive about succession planning and communicating about the future, especially knowing that the changes won’t happen overnight. Work together and take full advantage of the time you have working alongside fellow generations to share knowledge, teach and discuss goals for the future. Have patience in taking care of those around you, and the land you run, to sustain the farm today and create a multitude of opportunities for the future and for future generations.
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