In an industry buffeted by such constant change, it’s easy to predict a wave of evolution is heading our way that’s so strong, only the most powerful farms will survive. Except…
It’s a question I have asked before. Will the kids coming home from college and university this spring be part of the last generation of new farmers with large enough numbers to merit being called just that, i.e. a generation?
It’s easy to argue that they will be the last. In fact, it’s not only easy, it’s tempting too because pessimism always feels so much more credible than optimism.
At least, if you stand at the mike at a meeting voicing your doubts and concerns, no one is going to dismiss you as a dreamer.
But will you be right?
Certainly, if today’s trends continue, the road ahead looks challenging, to say the least. High land costs and volatile markets are only the start, because there’s also the constant need to know more, to manage better, to be so much more professional at every turn.
You might say that you can see holding out essentially forever as long as today’s circumstances last, but of course agriculture doesn’t stand still. If you’re the senior generation on a farm today, you know you couldn’t have survived if you still farmed the acreage that your parents worked.
There’s a generalization that says every generation must increase the size of the farm by four to six times during its career.
Does that generalization still hold? Well, the problem is that we won’t know until after the race has been run.
Regardless, all these add up to why, on the farms where our graduates will be returning this spring, the neighbours are wondering how long the smiles will last.
My optimism, though, stems from talking to as many young farmers as we do here at Country Guide.
I’m not saying that their parents were slouches, but this generation has different skills, and also different expectations. This generation understands accounting and finance far better than their parents did at that age. They know, too, how vital it is to source and understand top-notch accounting and legal advice, and they take their future role as the holder of the farm’s vision and its values as seriously as they take anything else that they do.
They know that, in 20 years, they will be farming in ways that are unrecognizable to us now, and they are not afraid.
These are the greatest tests for sorting out who in the next generation deserves our support.
To the doubters who continue to point to farming’s trend lines, I’ll say what I always say in these columns. The dominant force that is driving the evolution of agriculture isn’t technology, and it isn’t the price of land or the price of grain. It’s the individual farmer, making decisions one decision at a time and finding opportunity in places where previous generations never thought there was possibility at all.
I say, welcome them home.
Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].