My road warrior travels included a stop at Clemson University for the 28th Southeastern Agricultural Lending School. This is the longest-running agricultural lending school in the U.S. where lenders at Farm Credit, banks, FSA and agricultural suppliers meet together under one roof for an intensive week-long lending school.
During the introductory exercises, a group identified one of the foremost challenges young people face when entering agriculture, which is the senior generation stating “You can’t do that!” or “Why in the world would you want to be involved in agriculture?” How many of you have heard this comment from parents or grandparents who made their livelihood from agriculture? Some told horror stories of the Great Depression, while more recently the focus has been on the problems in agriculture during the 1980s. While there is credence to their comments, business and industry has an ugly side, as well – in the form of three-hour commutes and general employment uncertainty linked to mergers and outsourcing.
On a positive note, agriculture is a strong industry for a young person to consider. It involves the production and demand for food, fiber and fuel, along with the emerging life sciences’ utilization of agricultural products. It also includes emergent agri-entertainment opportunities, sought by the American public who are removed from the agricultural and rural landscape.
Over 20% of family farms also have no next-generation to step up to the plate, which presents opportunities for agriculturalists to carry on a business. A young person with a strong work ethic who is grounded academically and has experiences in the biological life sciences, business, economics and communication skills has opportunity abound in agriculture.
Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, Corn & Soybean Digest trends editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.