We have heard time and again the depressing mantra of how the rising cost of production factors make farming a difficult career path for young people. At the same we hear reports of an optimistic future for young farmers and the growing field of interest in agriculture within the millennial demographic.
These conflicting reports seems to send mixed signals to younger generations. Praising a growing interest and then offering a depressing prospective outlook does little to build morale.
In addition, I have seen select sustainable agriculture groups paint a romantic vision of careers in agriculture to entice young people to take up farming or ranching as a vocation. This also is not the answer.
Conflicting messages and unrealistic perspectives do little good to ensure a future for young people in agriculture. In addition, only talking about the idea without offering viable solutions as was the recent experience of my friend Chris Stelzer, does little to encourage progress.
So how then can we encourage positive change?
First, we must realize is what Seth Godin describes in The Icarus Deception; that the industrial economy, based on material goods and standardization, is ending. The new economy, based on connections, relationships and the human moment, has already begun.
This connection economy has changed the way we get information and how we find jobs. “Suddenly, it’s not the building or the rules or the packaging that matters,” says Godin. “It’s the bridges between people that generate value and those bridges are built by art.”
So, what does he mean by "art?" Well it’s not painting or drawing, at least not in this sense. In this case art is focusing on what you really want for your life, because doing anything else is a waste of your time. It is about cutting out the nonsense, staying humble, being persistent, keeping your word and taking risks.
To be successful in today’s economy requires us to step outside our comfort zones because, whether we like it or not, the ways of business are changing. The industry and those of us who want to make a success for ourselves in that altered future must also change.
I want to leave you with the story of a new friend who is stepping outside of his comfort zone and embracing the opportunities this connection economy makes possible for our generation.
Rob Hoehne is a native Californian and third-year law student at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. However, Hoehne isn’t your typical law student; he’s also an entrepreneur and a beginning farmer.
"Why be a lawyer when you can be a farmer?" he says. "The world already has enough lawyers. What it really needs is more farmers."
Hoehne has launched an inner-city project he calls Truck & Barter Farms which he hopes to use as a catalyst to encourage farming on vacant lots throughout New Orleans. The idea for the project was formed after Hoehne noticed the multitude of vacant lots across the city. He sought out a property owner of one of the vacant lots and initiated plans to turn this lot into a productive farm. He plans to grow crops such as micro greens, beets and okra, which he will then market in the local communities to residents and restaurants.
You may be wondering how a third-year law student with very little agriculture background decides to be a farmer and makes this all happen. It's the beauty of the connection economy that opportunities like this become available. However, to make it a reality requires desire, persistence and risk-taking. Nothing is guaranteed but in today’s market being sorry is better than being safe. For those who have the grit and determination, agriculture provides many profitable business opportunities.
In order to get Truck & Barter Farms off the ground, Hoehne is using one of the connection economy’s most powerful tools – the internet. Perhaps more important he's using social networking, particularly Kickstarter. It's an online threshold pledge system for funding creative projects. Through it he has launched a campaign to raise $10,000 to cover his initial startup costs for the farm.
At three weeks into the campaign he has already grossed over $7,000 in monetary pledges from donors to back his project. Impressive to say the least!
I encourage you to watch the Truck & Barter Farms’ campaign video here and if you feel so inclined to help Hoehne get this project up and running.
The point is, if you want to do something badly enough you will find a way to do it. It is now easier than ever to take an idea from thought to reality. However you must have the courage and desire to take the risk and share your idea with the world.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “If you think you can you can. If you think you can't you're right!”