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March 2013

Planting the Seeds for Ag’s Future

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

Spring is in the air. When I think of springtime, my mind immediately conjures up such words as “renewal,” “optimism,” “new day”… Coincidentally, these same words come to mind when I think about the younger generation of farming.

Whenever critics have expressed their doubts about the future of agriculture, I’ve paid them no attention. Traveling around the countryside I’ve seen our current crop of young farmers and ranchers who are excited, energized and optimistic about their industry. I can tell you personally that agriculture’s future is in good hands.

So, when it comes to farming, spring is definitely in the air.

Nature’s First Green

Just last month, Farm Bureau held its annual Young Farmers & Ranchers meeting, where more than 750 young agriculturalists from across the nation gathered. These young farmers are taking proactive leadership roles within their farms, communities and the overall farming industry. They definitely have their fingers on the pulse of agriculture.

No longer are all young farmers just carrying on the family business. I am meeting more and more first generation farmers who have transitioned into agriculture because they see a real future in it.

For example, on the flight back from the YF&R conference, I had the chance to meet such a first-generation farmer who produces hay. He gave up his non-agriculture career for farming, not only because it offers him the type of lifestyle in which he wants to raise his kids, but because of the many business opportunities it holds.

Bloom Where You are Planted

And those farmers and ranchers who are carrying on their family’s farm are becoming more creative in their business approach, using social media to market their goods and finding niches where they can stand out. They are designing business plans based on consumer demand and adapting to the ever-changing world around them.

Former Health and Education Secretary John Gardner once said, “All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” At Farm Bureau we strive toward this goal both literally and figuratively.

Through Farm Bureau’s YF&R and Partners in Agricultural Leadership programs, young farmers are learning valuable lessons of leadership, consumer engagement, grassroots advocacy and savvy business techniques.

Whether they are first generation or fifth generation farmers, we are preparing them for a demanding, yet exciting future in agriculture – a future that holds much promise. We are planting the seeds, now let’s watch them grow.