By Jennifer M. Latzke
I'm sitting in the middle of a convention center ballroom, listening to speakers give their views on the future of agribusiness, when one of them rustles me out of my small daydream side trip with this phrase:
"Farming is sexy."
You, sir, have my attention.
The speaker was Greg Duerksen, president of Kincannon & Reed, an executive search firm that specializes in agribusiness, and he was speaking on a panel at the 2013 Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum in Kissimmee, Fla. Duerksen went on to talk about how headhunting for a new generation in agribusiness means adjusting the scope of the search from just the animal science and agronomy colleges to the business and liberal arts colleges as well.
Duerksen said that with all of the science, technology and business that is involved on today's farms and ranches, a career in agriculture is now looking more "sexy" to college graduates beyond the ag department.
"Agriculture is very sexy," he said. "This is the greatest industry in the world because you have every technology in the world represented." We're at a point in our culture, where farming and ranching isn't just about producing the best yields in the county. Whether it's computer science, nanotechnology, biology, conservation or genetics, young agriculturalists are coming out of a variety of cutting-edge degree fields and using those skills for agribusiness.
And, he said, these aren't just kids who were born on the farm and who've chosen education from a land-grant university with the point of returning to the farm.
"Our clients today spend much more time recruiting in cities and in small liberal arts colleges than land-grant universities," Duerksen said. "Talent trumps all." It seems, as Duerksen put it, as long as the new hire has a skill that can be used in the agribusiness--whether that's IT help for computers on equipment or financial planning for the business's survival--they can be taught agriculture.
So, we can expect more liberal arts majors who want to return to the land out of some moral obligation to this idyllic solitude. We might see more urban and suburban kids who want to reconnect with their family roots in rural America, and they have the technical and engineering skills to contribute. That might even mean more city youth "interning" on farms and in feedlots to build their agricultural skills.
But, in my opinion, while it's encouraging to see this potential growth in agricultural careers, I do see one obstacle.
Rural Podunk, USA, isn't sexy.
You see, it's not enough to attract new talent to farming and living in rural America. We have to figure out a way to get these graduates invested in our communities so that they want to stay and put down roots. We have to find room for them in our little microcosms.
And that will take some adjustments on our parts.
I can see it now, the next innovation might be a digital compatibility service for this new generation of farmers looking for rural towns to settle.
Might want to spruce up that water tower for the profile picture.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.