The Ag Globe TrotterDr. Dave M. Kohl
Welcome to the weekly edition of The Ag Globe Trotter by Dr. Dave Kohl.
In recent schools and seminars, I have often been asked, “Can you give us some good news and are there bright spots in the agriculture industry, specifically for the next generation?” Let’s tackle this question from the perspective of young and beginning farmers and ranchers.
One of the bright spots that I see for the next generation is that the agriculture industry will not be one-size-fits-all or require a defined skill set. The next generation has virtually used technology since birth. Many of these individuals will have the power of information analysis and use critical thinking skills as their competitive edge in the agricultural marketplace. The really successful ones will balance high tech and high-touch human-relation aspects of the business.
One positive attribute observed with the younger generation is that, for the most part, they’re not afraid to engage with their peers and others. They will often reach out to others with questions in a collaborative type of environment. While many in the previous generation were independent, this generation is more likely to be interdependent and deal with people.
Another bright spot is the younger generation's ability to multitask and be very entrepreneurial through diversified revenue streams generated by “side gigs” that match their skills, talents and passion. The blue-collar welder, electrician or plumber that does so-called “dirty jobs” on the side is able to accomplish their passion and desire of farming, ranching or owning land. This is becoming more normal as I travel throughout North America.
Another positive skill is connecting with the customer or end user. They are able to share transparent production activities with the consumer through the use of technology to tell the story and develop a brand or a personal bond with the marketplace.
Despite all the negative news portrayed by the media, the United States of America is still a great place to farm and ranch. North America is the backdrop to 500 million people, over 25% of the world economy, and has tremendous purchasing power. Our river systems, which provide a distribution advantage, are greater than the rest of the world combined. Our colleges, universities, trade schools and agriculture education programs provide both youth and adult education to develop the competitive edge.
Things are not perfect, but when one examines the big picture, there are many bright spots in the agriculture industry.
Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 8 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,300 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension and other popular publications.
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