Four things farmers want you to know about farming

January 22, 2015

 

Not enough young people are embarking upon careers in agriculture to replace the world’s aging farmers. To better understand this trend and what to do about it, Cargill asked two farmers – one a middle-age smallholder who belongs to a cocoa cooperative in Cote d’Ivoire, the other a young large-scale poultry and produce farmer from England – to share their insights.

They participated in a Jan. 21 event convened by Cargill in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum's annual meetings.

Here’s what Georges Bitty, 58, and Ben Drummond, 34, had to say about the state of farming:

 

1. Farming is a viable business career.

Bitty: “One of the main obstacles is that the young generation sees farming as being very hard and it's difficult for them to make a living out of it. Farming activity must be seen by the young generation as a business opportunity. They must not see farming as something they do because they can’t do anything else. They must see it with passion and entrepreneurship.”

Drummond: “The most important thing is to help people understand that farming is a business. Some people see farming as a way of life. We must get them to understand it can be a great career. Financially, it's as good as any industry and young people need to see all the opportunities along the supply chain.”

2. Small farmers and large farmers aren’t adversaries. Both are needed.

Bitty: He sees the benefit of companies connecting smallholders to markets, providing training and helping them earn premium prices. “The private sector can involve the [smallholder] cooperatives in sustainability programs, which can help grow revenues to build more opportunities for farming communities. Training in this area is really important, so farmers have the best tools to be successful.”

Drummond: He views large-scale farms as boosting productivity and serving as a complement to small farmers. “Progress isn’t bad, and the industrialization of farming is progress. As farming intensifies, it isn’t bad if this is managed correctly. And as a young farmer, modern [agricultural techniques] offer a massive opportunity.”

3. Farming is not just tedious labor.

Drummond: “Farming is not boring! It’s a great career that's using cutting-edge technology. As the average farm size in the UK grows, being a "hands-on" farmer is not the whole picture anymore. Management-level opportunities are vast. [On our farm] we employ 40 to 50 full-time people and 300 seasonal workers, so within our business there is a lot of opportunity for career progression.”

4. People should have a connection to where their food comes from.

Drummond: Most people have lost all connection with how their food is produced – another reason they don’t even see it as a career. [Growing up on a farm,] I didn’t think I would be anything other than a farmer. Young people don’t think about their food, and so we need to try to get more young people thinking about their food and where it comes from.

To learn more about the challenges and opportunities of global agriculture and food security, follow @foodsecureworld  on Twitter and visit cargill.com/foodsecureworld .