Monday, April 8, 2013

Tomorrow's Farmers: Cutting a Wide Swath

Instead of agricultural law, I'm going to break with the theme of this blog and write about a recent observation.  I've been blown away in the past few weeks with a number of America's young farmers.  They are a different breed. They understand the challenges ahead.  And their contribution to agriculture in the next 50 years is going to be huge.

Nearly everyone (or at least 13 million of you) has heard of the Peterson's Brothers "Farmer Style" video.  This lively Youtube video mixes Kansas farming with "Gangnam Style" signing and dancing. Just as great is  "Ranching Awesome," a parody of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Thrift Shop" by another young Kansas farmer, Derek Klingenberg.  (Derek Klingenberg grew up only a few miles from the Janzen farm in Marion County, Kansas.)  I'm in awe that Derek could take the ordinary chores of raising cattle in central Kansas and turn such day-to-day work into a musical piece of art.  But more subtly, Farmer Style and Ranching Awesome are about a new breed of farmer--one with a sophistication and unashamed appreciation for modern agricultural practices.  Here is Ranching Awesome in case you missed it:
Make sure to also checkout Midwest Dairy's parody of the Beech Boys' "Good Vibrations": "Feedin' a Nation."

Last week, as part of the Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program, I visited the Chicago High School of Agricultural Science on that city's south side.  As part of Chicago public schools, this School allows students to specialize in their junior and senior years with one of five unique agricultural disciplines--e.g. animal science, food science, horticulture, etc.  The school and its students are impressive.  How many of us that attended consolidated rural school districts had the opportunity to take "agricultural economics" or learn how to grow vegetables using hydroponics and the waste water from fish farms?  These students--in the middle of Chicago--are doing just that. Graduation rates are reportedly near 90%; far higher than the 50% for most Chicago public high schools.      

Step in the Twitterverse or Blogosphere, and you'll find that these social media websites are full of young farmers and ranchers, FFA students, and young agribusiness professionals looking to engage and educate those outside of the farming community.  Social media has given young farmers the opportunity to communicate with a wider audience more than any previous generation. And they are taking advantage of these tools. I think that's great.

The burden of feeding the world's growing population isn't going to rest with today's farmers. That burden will be carried by tomorrow's farmers. Based upon what I've seen lately, we're in good hands.

By Todd Janzen

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