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Serving: Central

A new generation brings new skills to farm industry

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Many of the skills used by the next generation of farmers were developed with eyes glued to an electronic tablet.
Older generations have laid out the path for improvement, but the new generation will refine those goals.

The relativity of time amuses me. I still see myself as part of a younger generation of chargers who would make a difference in the way the industry moved forward.

The generation above mine will always be the intelligentsia and standard bearers of the farm industry. But now, my generation is talking about retirement and who will take their places.

I used to worry about the advancing age of the American farmer. According to the last ag census, that average grew to 57 years old, 1.2 years older than in the previous census. The next ag census, which will take place next year, will undoubtably show another increase.

However, I'm not sure that the average age of our farmers is an indication that something is amiss in the industry. Considering technological advancement and the number of hands we need in the field today, maybe the old guys are just remnants of the way things were done five, 10 and 15 years ago.

That's not a bad thing. We need the experience of my generation and those older than me to make the system work, but what youth brings to the field is a whole other skill set.

In the last few weeks I've spent some time in the field with some of the youngest generation of farmers. I think we are in good hands with the ones I have spoken to. These growers are focused and have no problems helping to bring new skills to work in the industry.

I visited a grower in east Mississippi who is working with his grandson. It's an amazing team. The grandfather knows the land and what will work with his particular growing environment. The grandson, who was on the planter, was running a program that spoke to the planter to get correct inputs to optimize what they were putting into the ground.

The grandfather noted that his grandson could operate the controls of the planter far better than he could because he had grown up with the pad technology.

When I was in my 20s I told someone, "I never want to be the old guy who can't operate the VCR." I think it's a very telling statement. First off, who needs to operate that kind of technology, now. Secondly, how much further has technology taken us since then. We've left the old technology and adapted to something new.

While the older generations have laid out the path for improvement for the industry, as is evidenced by field to market studies showing improvements in overall farm efficiency, it will be the new generation that will refine those goals with the help of the skills they bring to the field.

And I hate to say, many of those skills were developed with eyes glued to an electronic tablet.

After the last few weeks, I think we are in good hands.

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