Helping the next generation

Our generation needs guidance, classroom learning, and networking opportunities to help make decisions.

I was nominated by our Dekalb/Asgrow District Sales Manager to participate in the first Illinois “NextGen” program. The eight month program has more than 100 Illinois grain farmers ranging in age from just out of college to their mid-thirties. The program emphasizes that the future of agriculture hinges on the skills and decisions of this generation. 

The first session was last month. The program started with a tour of the Monsanto research facility. Group sessions included understanding behavioral styles, managing employees, and branding your farm. Dr. Michael Boehlje, possibly the most popular speaker about farm economics, gave a keynote address on winning in tough times. He asked, “How do you feel about the farm economy?” One person in the crowd said he felt really good about the economy. How could anyone feel good about this economy? Either this person is oblivious to reality, or really believes that grain farming is still in the black.

Personally, nearby live cattle futures dropping below $1.00 hit me on a psychological level. The grains are a similar story. I started working at a grain elevator in Indiana just of out college in 2006. That summer, farmers sold corn for $1.99. By June of 2007, our customers were elated at selling $4 corn. I remember one customer saying he wanted to be able to tell his neighbors he could sell corn for $4 per bushel. I have the same sentiment today, nine years later.

We need help

It dawned on me that my generation absolutely needs these NextGen type of events. Millennials have been given a bad rap, characterized as entitled, self-centered, and high maintenance. On the flip side, we seek purpose for our work and quality of life. We are open to change and soak up technology like sponges. When it comes to the farm, I can see my generation taking more calculated risks, seeking more opportunities, and streamlining agricultural production more than any other generation. Past generations may have fended for themselves, but millennials like connection. We may be a little more high maintenance, but that isn’t all bad. Many of us have college degrees and are used to classroom settings. Programs like NextGen are perfect for us. Our generation needs guidance, classroom learning, and networking opportunities to help make decisions.

Millennials aside, I think some farmers still have the sentiment that the economy is fine. Dr. Boehlje wasn’t trying to scare us, but was trying to get our attention. All farmers can benefit from attending farm conferences. It’s time to put the January 19-20 Farm Futures Business Summit on your calendar.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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