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February 2006

Young Farmers and Ranchers Are the Future of Agriculture

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

At the end of February, nearly a thousand young people will converge on Des Moines for the annual American Farm Bureau Federations’ Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership Conference. For those who have had the opportunity to experience the meeting, you know that the participants do not take it lightly. They travel across the country to learn about personal development, leadership advancement and how to succeed in their chosen occupations of farming and ranching.

In short, they get down to business.

Standing at the Frontier

Jonathan Swift once said that no wise man ever wished to be younger. I have a feeling he wasn’t familiar with our young farmers and ranchers and the opportunities they have on the horizon.

The landscape of farming is changing and will look very different in 10 years than it does today. Unlike many of us who took over the family farm that had remained basically unchanged for generations, these young folks are dealing with an ever-shifting slate of issues and challenges that have never before been experienced.

Yet, instead of letting change be a deterrent, young farmers and ranchers are taking the bull by the horns to play a major role in shaping their future. They are assuming risks of a generation where farming is quickly changing. In essence, they are at the frontier of what the future holds for the farming industry.

As former YF&R Chair Ben Boyd is fond of saying, young farmers still have the dirt under their fingernails – and he is proud of it.

Bloom Where You are Planted

Unlike years ago, our youth today can pretty much choose any occupation. Just because they are raised on a farm doesn’t necessarily mean they will carry on the family business. In fact, many will tell you that it is a lot easier taking other career paths.

This is where the older generations come in. As the old adage goes, in youth we learn, in age we understand. Therefore, it is our responsibility to nurture and guide younger producers, to give them the proper tools to succeed in farming and ranching.  It is our duty to ensure they have every opportunity to bloom where they are planted, and to also help those wanting to transition into farming.

We must impart the lessons we have learned along our lifetimes and remember that someone once offered us a guiding hand. Encourage our young farmers and ranchers to stand at the frontier, grab the bull by the horns and meet their potential. Not only are they the lifeblood of our organization, they are the future of our industry.