The age of growers in the US agricultural industry has slowly climbed since the 1920s, and is higher than it has ever been before. More than half of agriculture operators in the US are over the age of 55, and in Florida that number is at almost 70%. Fewer family-owned farms are being handed down to younger family members, and more of today’s youth are turning toward technological fields.
To combat this trend, the GenNext Growers Network has produced webcasts to encourage and teach younger generations how to succeed in agriculture and actively engage with lawmakers and agricultural associations. The webcasts provide advice, insight, and examples on how to engage with ag leaders and how important it is for these younger generations to get involved and maintain a firm future for the industry.
Only about 2% of Americans are growers, and therefore fewer agricultural leaders are in our government. Florida has 160 representatives in Washington DC, and less than 10 are connected to agriculture. Industry leaders agree that young professionals in the industry need to step up and be heard by legislators. Currently, water is a big issue in Florida agriculture, and concerns include water quality, supply, and contamination from pesticides and fertilizers. The future of farming and issues like these depend on younger people’s input and advocacy.
Some among this group might be apprehensive about how to deal with lawmakers and agricultural associations. Teaching them to overcome these obstacles is exactly what GenNext hopes to accomplish with the webcasts. Future growers are encouraged to meet with lawmakers face-to-face and express their opinions and concerns. There are several opportunities for young people to get involved, and one way is to engage with an ag association like the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.