April 10th 2020
Each year new college graduates head off to various cities across the country in search of success. Increasing numbers are returning home with bold ideas to transform and innovate their family farms.
Fresh off campus from completing their college’s agriculture programs, newly-minted young professionals are weaving new and innovative tools from the classroom with the techniques they mastered back home to help grow their family crops – and the family business. Their new ideas are helping to solve industry-wide challenges like shortages in labor supply, environmental concerns, and technological inefficiencies. The combination of institutional knowledge with an understanding of how to use the most current technologies is molding the next generation of great American farmers.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Agriculture Census, Wisconsin saw a 3.5% increase in the number of chief farm-decision makers under age 35 for the first time since the 1970s. These recent grads bring diversity in thinking and their passion for carrying on their family legacy.
FL Morris is focused on product innovation. As the president of South Central Wisconsin Hemp, Morris determined that the future of his farm was in hemp production. Morris believes relief from CBD oils, a by-product of hemp, can help stem the opioid crisis as well as generate a realistic replacement for plastic. These two distinct revenue streams should create a healthy profit margin for his family’s farm business.
In Louisa County, Iowa, Elyssa McFarland is seizing upon innovative methods of technology to help her guide her family’s farm. McFarland returned home in 2012 representing the sixth generation to oversee her family’s business. She uses high-speed internet to gather the most up-to-date agricultural data and research so that she can make informed decisions and collaborate on best practices with fellow farmers. McFarland has also deployed variable rate seeding and fertilizing to increase yields in high-productivity areas and reduce crop input costs in areas of low productivity.
Erin and Jeremy Lynch of Spring Green, Wisconsin take pride in overseeing a zero-waste catering company in Enos Farms & Catering. Their company, which annually serves up to 20,000 locally sourced meals, is based on pasture-raised hogs. Those hogs, who initially feasted on corn and soybeans, now are fed pumpkins as a way to make thehogs healthier while also reducing the number of passes with a tractor it takes to plant seeds in the ground. Additionally, by raising pigs, Jeremy believes they are able to generate higher efficiency in meat production than with chickens. They take pride in the environmental sustainability of their farm.
For those inside the farming business, the warning signs that plague the agricultural industry are readily apparent, whether they be land depletion and regulation or rapidly increasing global demand. But, with a new generation of farmers armed with the latest tools, the industry is riding a wave of innovation and technology to new solutions and a future of environmental sustainability.