Last week I attended the opening of the new Fair Oaks Winfield Crop Adventure, a detailed look at agriculture from the 1920s to today, essentially the advent of modern crop production technology. It was an interesting day, and I learned plenty. You can check out the gallery if you like.
There was a lot of information released and there's one I wanted to dig into in this latest blog posting - a survey sponsored by Land O'Lakes that was conducted in May with 500 teens ages 13 to 16. It was an online survey and it revealed a few interesting facts.
94% felt farmers are hard workers - but when it comes to technology just 15% thought that farmers were technologically advanced; and 34% thought farmers work alone.
This alone should be a wake-up call to farmers. In the U.S. 98% of people have no connection to agriculture, and it's showing up in what their kids know too. Add in the 'red barn' portrayal of agriculture my major food companies afraid to show real technology used to make healthy, nutritious food and you get these kinds of results.
Teens don’t have the perception that agriculture is high-tech; and a great place to work. One of the key messages that Winfield and the folks of Fair Oaks want to deliver with the Crop Adventure is that there are jobs in this industry - good paying jobs - for people who get science, technology, engineering or math degrees.
Interestingly, the Land O'Lakes survey noted the 9.7 billion people to feed by 2050 numbers and that we need to push up food production by 70%. These are numbers U.S. farmers hear all the time, but when asked how this global food crisis made them feel, the results were interesting.
Just over half of respondents say they felt scared by the challenge and 36% felt surprised. An just over one-quarter say they felt sad about the challenge. From this group of respondents, more than 90% say they believe farming is important and 94% believe farmers are important to the U.S. economy - which is great news.
However, couple that with the fact that 64% of respondents say they don't know anyone who works in ag, and you get the feeling that agriculture isn't reaching consumers. It's a challenge, in that without that connection to agriculture they turn to the Internet for their news (and while you're reading this on the Internet not everyone who delivers food news is dealing in facts).
As for those teens and picking a career in ag? Here's some interesting information about half the teens responded positively to the career term "technologist", followed by 44% who said scientist and 41% who said engineer. According to the Agriculture Council of America there are 200 career opportunities that match those technology-related interests - all in ag.
The survey shows that teens are not aware of all the tech in ag, and don't think about working in agriculture as a career. We talk about farmers and farm transition, but let's not take our eye off the ball here. We need those older technologist jobs to transition to younger, bright-minded people someday too. And agriculture has plenty to offer those city kid engineers and technologists looking for steady work.
You can learn more about this survey and efforts to help solve the issue by visiting fieldsoffuture.com.