We really drum up the importance of investing in the next generation these days. Agriculturalists have been at this for a long time in a traditional cycle of prepping the younger folks to take on the family legacy, with the desire to leave the place a bit better than they found. What that looks like varies according to personal values and interpretations. But on the bottom line is this — it’s not enough for us to leave something behind, we need young folks to work on themselves.
The “young adult” age bracket is one of the strangest. From starry-eyed ag students all the way through exhausted couples on their second or third kid, the variety in lifestyles and interests make it a difficult one to reach. And of course, this is the primal demographic we want picking up lifelong agricultural careers and passions. It’s a daunting task that we seem well up to the challenge for. This is evident by there being no shortage of opportunity available for young professional development.
For the past three years I’ve had the fortune enough to attend my state Farm Bureau’s annual Young Agriculture Professionals Conference. What’s more, I’ve been blessed with a home county that has generously sponsored my cost of attendance in full each time. This is a simple but very concrete way of elders, many of who I don’t even know, encouraging me to pursue my career endeavors and give back to my state’s proud agricultural history. Little things like this are some of the greatest motivators for individuals like myself to make most of all the opportunities and tools to better agricultural futures.
One of the things about these events that fascinates me is networking in such a unique atmosphere. Agriculture can be an isolating line of work by nature, and the mental boost of physically seeing and interacting with colleagues is invaluable. There’s certainly something to be said when hundreds of individuals have enough of a passion to give up a whole weekend for education and fellowship. As well, many speakers, volunteers and presenters come only to share their wisdom and experiences because they believe in the cause. With so many great minds, exchanges of information and educational sessions at play, there is no telling what next great industry partnerships and innovations may arise.
I’m also amazed by those who are far more ambitious than I. I’ve encountered so many incredible individuals serving on state committees, competing for national awards, political lobbying, and serving public and association offices. All of these endeavors require some time away from the farm and maybe stepping out of comfort zones. The opportunities were made available by those who came before, but it’s the young people who take advantage of them actually doing the legwork to shape tomorrow.
And let’s not forget the importance of self-investment on the individual level as well. There’s some real damage to be done when individuals are brought up subconsciously believing the ag world ends at their farm’s property line. But when young people get in the habit of bettering themselves, more often than not it comes full circle as they become those role models and encouragers of the generation to follow them.
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic agvocate, professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.