One of the most significant megatrends to emerge since the turn of the century is the “boomerang” producer. These are individuals that return to the farm business after being employed off the farm for a period of 5 to 15 years. Many are returning in search of a better balance between work and life. Sometimes there is a trigger event such as the death of a family member that brings them back to the farm. In other cases, it is the attraction of raising their family on the farm. And still others want to grow, expand, and better utilize their skills in an environment where becoming a managing partner or owner is possible.
For example, in the thumb of the gloved-shaped state of Michigan, a couple who worked at Ford Motor Company for two decades are now organic grain producers. When asked what skills transferred to organic farming from auto manufacturing, they responded that work protocols, detailed systems, and vital processes were among the common elements. Negotiations were a large part of the manufacturing career; a skill that continues to serve them well as they navigate customer demands and the changing marketplace.
In another situation, a civil engineer returned to his family farm after several years of experience. He worked naturally with the new automation and technology aspects of the equipment in agriculture. Pulling from his engineering background, he developed various dashboard metrics to measure production, marketing, and finance. Now, the farm’s entire management team follows these benchmarking figures.
An executive in Chicago, one lady returned to the farm as a spouse She married into a sizeable grain operation. Through her outside perspective, she helped the business meet requirements to market their grain to local customers, for farm-to-table products. She further developed a profitable business marketing “farm life” experiences to individuals and families from urban areas.Clearly, her business skills in marketing, customer relations, compliance, finance and logistics were well-suited to agriculture.
Many of the “boomerang” producers return to the farm as veterans. The discipline, determination, and teamwork learned in serving our country make these “boomerangers” a natural fit for emerging agriculture These returning producers have learned the importance of planning for the unknown, and the unexpected.They respect procedures and decisions, but have also learned to think critically. Additionally, veterans appreciate the human side of the equation as well as the bottom line. Some lending institutions such as Farm Credit offer educational programs geared specifically for returning veterans and their skill sets.
Coming from various sectors and places, these “boomerang” producers are helping shape the future of agriculture. By welcoming innovation and entrepreneurship like that offered by the “boomerang” producers, today’s agriculture industry is designing its own very exciting, viable future.