From the Field: Stepping Up to the Gate

From the Field is a bi-monthly column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.

I recently attended the Young Farmer Summer Expo in Lynchburg during the last weekend in July. The Young Farmer Expos are always filled with great learning and networking opportunities. The Expos are family oriented, and there are usually several small children in attendance.

Seeing the young farmers, ages 18-35, and the young kids, most at age 7 and under, keeps me optimistic about the future of agriculture. This scene that I snapped a picture of really got me thinking about how each generation faces different opportunities and challenges, and what kindles that passion for farming in the youngest among us.

I think all of us in agriculture will admit that there is a passion within us for agriculture. A driving force that is part of who we are. Many people develop that passion for farming early in life. Some have found that love for farming later in life. I think that passion for agriculture is contagious and is modeled to others in our work ethic on the farm and through our caretaking responsibilities over the resources that we manage during our lifetime. I think this is especially true with kids, and this is how they catch the passion for agriculture. The parents love it, so it is interwoven in their lives. Their kids see that they enjoy farming even though there are sometimes challenges and hard times. It usually involves outside activities with nature, which kids love.

Agriculture is a great family business in that all of the family members can be involved. Parents can take their kids to work. There are probably other small businesses where this occurs; but I think it is more predominant in agriculture. This passion for agriculture helps those entering into the agriculture field seek opportunities and tackle challenges.

I am not too far out of the age range of official young farmer status. However, when I give it a little more thought, some of the young farmers are 20 years younger than me. Each generation has opportunities and challenges that are different than the previous generation. Some things stay the same. Agriculture is always a blend of tried and true practices and traditions and new technologies, practices, and methods. Maybe it’s my age, but change seems to be occurring at a more rapid pace than it did several years ago.

Adaptability to change and flexibility in their enterprise are going to be key factors for young farmers’ success. From what I have seen, young farmers are up to the challenge. They can multi task with the best of them. Technology has obviously made that more possible. A big challenge will continue to be the large amount of capital involved in farming, whether you own your farm or rent. When tractors cost over $50,000 and a pot load of steers is $70,000; there is a lot of risk involved.

So what about the young farmers that were at the Expo? Will they be farming the same as my generation? As history shows; it will probably be a blend of the old mixed with the new. What about the boy in the picture? What will his agriculture industry look like? I don’t know. But I am sure that he will step up to the gate and be successful in an industry and lifestyle that he loves.

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