I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.
-The FFA Creed, E.M. Tiffany
For those of you that weren’t reciting that in your head with the same vigor you did your freshmen year of high school to earn your Greenhand degree, that is the opening paragraph of the FFA Creed. Even after listening to the creed 100 million times while helping judge the contest at convention a few years ago, I still get chill bumps every time I hear it. The words are so profound and they are dear to me because I sure do believe in the future of agriculture.
We all know from a science and technology perspective the future of agriculture is very bright. Every day we are hear about something new going on in the industry, and that’s really exciting. When you stop and think about how far agriculture has come in such a short amount of time it’s truly astounding. In 1960 the average farmer fed 25.8 people. Today, a single American farmer feeds 155 people worldwide. That’s 6 times the amount of people on considerably fewer acres!
Sometimes I think about the changes my 92 year old grandfather has seen in his lifetime, especially from a farming perspective. He grew up in rural southern Ohio with 2 parents that had “town” jobs, but they also had a small farm. My Pappaw recently told me a story about raising potatoes for his high school ag project. He used the family’s plow mule to work up an area next to the creek bed to plant his potatoes. Unfortunately for him, he had a bit of a wreck when he hit what he guessed was a big rock or root with the plow. Then to rub salt in the metaphorical and literal wounds, a flash flood came though and washed all of his potatoes away. Needless to say that was the end of his potato farming career. It’s hard to fathom that in just one mans lifetime farmers went from using a single horse plow to the huge equipment we run today that literally drives itself. It also makes me think, what changes am I going to see in my lifetime?
For all the excitement that resonates around the future of agriculture, there is one major concern. It comes up at almost every get together we have with our “farmer” friends, as I’m sure it does at many dinner tables. WHO is going to be the future of agriculture? We have all of this great technology, all of these money/time/resource saving innovations, but WHO is going to use them? WHO is going to keep the family farm legacy going? It always ends up turning into a “kids these days” complaint. “Kids these days don’t want to work.” “Kids these days are lazy.” “Kids these days aren’t going to want to take over the farm.” Let me ask you this: If you are concerned about the future of your farm, the future of agriculture, about who is going to be the next generation of agriculturalists, what are YOU doing about it? That’s right, I’m pointing the finger at you. Not the high school ag teacher that has 200 kids to try to reach while being stuck to a strict curriculum, not the 4-H extension agent that’s making tough decisions about where their limited funds can go, I’m looking at YOU. What are YOU doing to get kids interested in and excited about agriculture?
I’m fortunate enough to work with “kids these days” though being a volunteer for our local 4-H horse program, and let me tell you, “kids these days” are still awesome. They are excited to learn, and they are truly grateful to people that take the time out to help them. Yes, “kids these days” are super tech-savvy, but that just means they are smart enough to keep up with our worlds progression of technology. One of the cool things about spending time with them is that most meetings someone will bring up their plans after high school. It’s a great time to encourage them to further their education and look into agriculture degrees and careers that they hadn’t previously thought about.
Are you concerned about the future of agriculture? It’s so easy to do something about it! Spend an hour a week with 4-H kids to help them with livestock judging. Invite the high school plant science class out to see your tobacco field. Give the kids down the road a ride in the combine. Go talk to your sister-in-laws 5th grade class about what a farmer does. Give pony rides at your friends family reunion. Get kids involved in agriculture and watch their passion grow!
“Be the change you want to see in the world”