The average age of a farmer is 59 in the UK, whereas globally, the average age of a farmer is 60. With populations becoming younger worldwide and older farmers coming close to retirement, the younger generation must see farming as a worthwhile career. However, with young people increasingly veering off to non-agricultural jobs, the UK and the world’s agricultural industries may be in danger. Without young people taking the helm, the future of the global food supply becomes uncertain.
There are two ways to tackle this uncertainty. The first way is by investing in new technologies to reduce workloads and increase yield. The second, and more challenging way, is to reduce the stigma around farming and encourage young people that farming is a viable career option and increasingly profitable and stable. No matter how hard, achieving this is vital to saving the nation’s agricultural industry.
According to some, the rhetoric that there are no younger or new farmers to take over from retiring ones is misleading and inaccurate. A researcher from Scotland named Lee-Ann Sutherland has argued that the statistics don’t consider that farmers may pass on their farms to children who might not show up as farm labourers in surveys.
However, this doesn’t help the case since many children do not want to take over their family farms because they require manual labour and hard work with little profit. That being said, all hope is not lost. Some young people are ready to delve into the agricultural industry. According to Sutherland, one-third of new entrants to farming, i.e., people who don’t have a family background in agriculture and haven’t lived on a farm, are women.
Despite some young people being interested in farming, there are still many barriers to entry, including finances, access to land, alluring city jobs, and the image of agriculture as unprofitable and tough.
How Agriculture Can Attract Younger People
To attract younger people to agriculture, the industry requires youth to understand that agriculture can be an innovative and profitable field. The following are some of the ways that governments and private entities can promote agriculture to young people.
Change the Image of Agriculture
It’s crucial to improve the image of agriculture and farming so that more young people think of it as a viable career option. This includes not just educating young people but transforming the mindset of those already in the business. In many instances, those interested in farming and agriculture are put off by people already telling them about hard labour, tedious work, and little reward.
Instead of focusing on agriculture through a subsistence-based lens, it’s essential to teach farmers to think of it through a business lens. With representation in farming and changing the image of agriculture from tedious and unrewarding work to innovative and transformative work, younger folk can start to change their mindsets about it.
Use Technology and Social Networks
It’s also important to use powerful tools like technology and social networks to show people how innovative and profitable agriculture can be. This can include the various jobs in agriculture, including those in green agriculture, technology, agribusiness, and more.
Expose Young People to Agriculture Early On
It’s essential to expose young people to the different forms of agriculture early on. This can be through partnerships with schools and universities or things as simple as school farms. It can also include food, nutrition, and other related subjects in the curriculum since being exposed to these subjects at an early age can lead to problem-solving, development, and an overall interest in the field and the agricultural and food sector.
Highlight Off-Farm Activities
One of the main reasons people don’t consider agriculture as a career option is because of the image of agriculture as related to on-farm jobs and activities. However, this isn’t all that agriculture is. There are several jobs available for those who aren’t interested in on-farm duties, including office jobs, lab jobs, etc. Showcasing these off-farm opportunities is integral to attracting more young people to agriculture.
Highlight ICTs and Other Developments
It’s vital to use ICTs and other developments to show the public and young people how profitable agriculture can be. Younger people are looking for financially stable and rewarding jobs, and it’s essential to show them that agriculture can provide these opportunities. Technologies like drones, blockchain, and automation can ease the workload and make the entire process more transparent. This can help ensure that profits are shared equitably.
Other developments like hydroponics, aeroponics, and vertical farming can also be used to attract young people to agriculture. These methods of producing food can be especially attractive since they can be used in urban areas. When combined with short-season crops, they show younger people how quick and rewarding farming can be. Urban farming and proximity to markets are especially important since they show young people how to reduce steps in the supply chain and thus, retain a bigger share of profits.
Partnerships between Family Members and Farmers
Encouraging partnerships between younger family members of farmers and elderly farmers and farm workers can also help engage youth in farming. Tech-savvy youth can help their families with new technology, and at the same time, learn about and appreciate farming and agriculture as a whole. Additionally, as they see technology helping their family businesses becomes more profitable, they can start to see agriculture as a field that can be satisfying both professionally and financially.
Internships and Other Opportunities
Both the government and private sector can provide students with internships, training programs, and apprenticeships. These can open the door to agriculture and give young people real-world experiences to decide to pursue a career in agriculture full-time.
Find Agricultural Jobs with Agricultural Recruitment Specialists
Changing the perception of agriculture may be challenging, but it is possible. If you’re interested in an agricultural career and don’t know where to start, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists can help. There are hundreds of agricultural jobs out there and we can help you find the perfect one. If you’re looking for a job, you can check out our latest job listings here or register and upload your CV here to be kept updated on new job opportunities.
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