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Agriculture is a sexy business

Dick Ziggers
Nowadays a profession needs to be sexy or it is not attractive to the young. Having said that, I believe agriculture is a sexy business.

With today’s shrinking rural population, fewer and fewer people get the opportunity to grow up on a farm. Even fewer choose agriculture as an educational challenge or a working destination.

When I was studying at Agriculture University (in the late seventies) there were two camps: farmer sons and ‘concrete farmers’ referring to students that did not come from a farm and grew up in a city. The farmer sons were in the majority. It was more a tradition to study agriculture if you were born on a farm.

Today the numbers seem to have reversed, not because there is more interest from non-farmer sons, but due to fewer farmer sons studying agriculture.

Not so long ago I chaired a conference of an animal nutrition company where I asked the delegates who of them had grown up on a farm. I was surprised by the very few that actually had their cradle on a farm, and so were the conference delegates themselves.

The people in the room had found their way into animal nutrition, thus in agriculture. I believe that you have to be born or at least have to have worked on a farm to understand agriculture – to understand how crops grow and how animals behave and need to be taken care of.

When food is abundant then agriculture production is criticised for not complying with welfare standards and exploiting the animals, but when droughts threaten harvests, feed prices go up and meat, milk and egg prices follow (if they do) consumers suddenly become concerned about the price of their food.

When faults in processing reach the press the primary producer gets the blame, because the majority of the people are unaware of what is really happening behind the scenes. There is never a dull moment.

But getting back to my initial statement that agriculture is a sexy business: today’s farmer is young and energetic, interested in eco-tourism and eating raw. They may still have clay on their boots, but modern farmers are looking beyond the dirt and into how technology and international networking can make the local industry sexier and more productive. High tech is key and social media have entered the barn.

Farming has moved into the 21st century and in education the paradigms that the system has been operating on are just not appropriate for the modern technologies, communication and marketing systems. A highly professional qualified workforce is needed, not only on farm but also for the support industry that goes with it. So next to forklift and truck drivers PhDs are needed, and researchers, academics, scientists. That is going to be a struggle to get young people interested.

The video, "I'm Farming and I Grow it," is a nice example of how agriculture can be promoted and addressed to the younger generations. It is a parody on the song "Sexy and I Know It" and features the Peterson brothers in the US, who will be attending K-State, and Kendal a student at Southeast of Saline High School, as they perform various jobs around their family farm whilst rapping.

The video took roughly three weeks to film and edit, as they created it little by little each day so it would not interfere with work.

The video was posted  June 25 onto YouTube. The Peterson brothers joked about it going viral but really did not expect more than 100,000 views.

To their surprise, they surpassed that number in the first day, and the numbers kept growing. End of August it passed 6.9 million views and the boys were even flown out to New York City for an appearance on Fox News Channel.

I’d like to hear if there any more initiatives like this.

One comment

  • r k robinson kale

    I am thank full that you have excepted me. Very interested to hear more about feed making and feeding pigs in my farm
    Mr Farmer

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