There are a lot of current-day barriers to starting any new entrepreneurial business, from the rising cost of living and a complicated tax system to a fluctuating economy. With farming we add commodity markets, trade and land prices to further encumber a fledgling business. I’m not an economist, and I’m not involved in policy, but as someone who grew up on a dairy farm, and wanted to be a dairy farmer, the unknowns and volatility of the market seemed like a daunting and insurmountable obstacle, too big to tackle on my own.
So why do we still have young farmers taking over operations and starting them from scratch? What motivates them to push through all that noise to make an inventive start?
Some would say it’s in their blood — a calling. Many would talk about the lifestyle benefits — working outside, time with family, tangible work results. But the question remains: How can we make this entry into agriculture less discouraging to navigate? There are many viable answers to that question, but two that come to my mind first are community and support. Farm Bureau members can be that community and support, with Community Action Groups playing a key role in facilitating those local relationships.
We recently asked each of this year’s Young Farmer Award finalists to describe the value of Farm Bureau membership and many mentioned leadership development and networking as top takeaways, but overwhelmingly they cited the community Farm Bureau has provided them.
There are a lot of reasons why Young Farmer members increasingly value community. Whether it’s a generational trend, two years of pandemic restrictions, or the difficulty of transitioning the farm between generations, they’re looking for a place where they can seek advice, feel supported and make a difference.
So how can we bring more young farmers into the Farm Bureau community?
Since putting on the hat of Young Farmer Program Specialist I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Farm Bureau members across the spectrum, but especially our 18- to 35-year-old members. And I always hear the same story about why or how they first got involved. Whether it was applying for an award, taking part in a discussion meet or serving on a committee, they always say the same thing: “Because someone asked me.”
So here’s my question for you: When was the last time you asked a Young Farmer to:
- Go out for a cup of coffee
- Join your Community Action Group or start one of their own
- Attend the county annual meeting
- Help out on a committee
- Apply for a Young Farmer award (applications open in mid-December)
- Attend a conference (Young Farmer Leaders Conference: Feb. 24, 2023 in Lansing)
- Take part in a discussion meet
Your input, suggestions and encouragement carry serious weight and can be incredibly influential. You can be the reason someone continues in the industry.
I wonder about back when I was making my own career decisions… If I knew I had a community of seasoned peers supporting me with their knowledge and experience — might I have been brave enough to take a path back to the farm?
This topic was suggested by Saginaw County's AgVentures CAG.
Megan Sprague is the Young Farmer program specialist at Michigan Farm Bureau.
- What are some of the challenges you faced as a Young Farmer? How have things changed?
- What are some actions you can take to support a Young Farmers in your area?
- What are some ways Farm Bureau can better support Young Farmers statewide?
- Create a list of Young Farmers you can invite to your Community Action Group — or who might benefit from forming their own.
Submit your responses:
- E-mail: [email protected]
- Postal Mail: MFB Community Group Discussion Topic Responses, ATTN: Michelle Joseph, 7373 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI 48917
Please include your name and CAG affiliation!