One of the problems that affects every job sector that exists is “replacement”. People move on. People get old. People die. And in order for a job to continue getting done you need new people, young people, to enter the field. And you need to do it sooner rather than later in order to best facilitate the transfer of knowledge. But how do you get young people interested in a career in a necessary field?
That was the question that Johanna Trisha Cinco was asked at the Queen Isabela 2023 pageant: how to get millennials to look at careers in agriculture.
I think it is time for us to stop burdening society to go to jobs that don’t benefit them, instead, we should burden the system to create a more sustainable position for farmers and make farming a good job for people. And once we do that — once the government does its job that’s when millennials will choose to be farmers because by then it is a profession that will feed their family and it is a profession that will give them a sustainable life.Johanna Trisha Cinco
That got me to thinking about what the United States of America needs to do in order to encourage more young people to look into agriculture, or farming, as a career – as a life.
The first thing is connectivity. Those who are classified Millennial and younger generations are a very online group of people. The idea of spending their lives in a place with internet speeds that are closer to the dial-up days is unfathomable. Sure, everyone likes to “turn it off” now and then, and take a break from the world, but they also like to be able to turn it back on and connect. This means that the US needs to invest heavily in broadband technologies in rural areas. I mean, they need to invest in broadband everywhere, but they REALLY need to hit the rural places. They need to string fiber across the Heartland and cover every square inch with 5G wireless and wire connect every home and business with gigabit capable connections.
And this isn’t just for social networks. All of the businesses out there need it. And that leads to…
The US needs to fully embrace, wherever possible, remote working. If there is broadband everywhere then people can work while choosing to live where they want, or where they need. This makes it possible for people to live in small towns and communities, and be able to bring diversity to areas that otherwise might be entirely agriculture based.
And if there is a solid infrastructure for broadband everywhere, that also opens up the possibility for businesses to choose mid-sized or small cities to locate rather than always trying to home themselves in a handful of the largest ones.
The next thing is … well, it’s also connectivity. As much as we fail at mass transit within most cities, we REALLY fail at it for long distance travel. We need more commuter rails that connect smaller cities to bigger ones. We need high speed rail to connect big cities to each other. We need trains to supplement air travel. And we need not to be so reliant on cars for people travel over long distances. I live in Atlanta, and I should be able to catch a train to Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Savannah, and Athens, at least for “local” rail, maybe even to Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Montgomery. And I should be able to take a train to Nashville, Memphis, Charlotte, Charleston, Jackson, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and even Orlando and Miami by the same or higher speed rail. I should be able to have the option to hop a flight to New York or Los Angeles if I need to be there in a few hours, or book a ticket to ride a train if I’ve got more time, or just want to not fly.
Once you’ve got rails going to these places, it’s not just passenger. You can ship more goods longer distances, and leave trucking for port/depot-to-store work. I’m not saying we should completely abandon highways, that would be dumb. But people should have options, and right now, people really don’t. It’s fly or drive… or to a lot of places in the “flyover states” it’s just drive.
The last thing you need is basically what’s needed in practically every industry: Break up monopolies and large corporations, and create opportunity for true participation in the system for everyone. You need to break up the “family farms” that are really just people who own a lot of land (many times for historically “bad” reasons) and then lease that land to a farm corporation who hires farm workers like any other corporation, paying as little as they can get away with while demanding the most work they can squeeze out of them.
To get young people to choose agriculture as a career you need to remove barriers and create opportunities. The ones who come from those communities see how hard the work is and how disconnected they are and they want to move away. And those who start out in cities or suburbs aren’t enticed by the tales of long, hard work days so separated from the life they know. Even the people who want to work in agriculture often are turned off from it due to the lack of reward they see. The insistence that people will work these jobs without reward because “the job itself is the reward” or “they love it” is the same problem we have with teachers. But addressing educators should be it’s own post.
Anyway, to sum up, what I think we need to make more young people consider agriculture as a career is to expand broadband, trains, and more opportunity to benefit.