My topic, suggested in the headline for this article, points to a main concern for the next generation of ranchers and farmers: how can we attract and/or retain the current younger generation to become owners/managers of our farms?
Farms are getting bigger, land is more expensive, and human resources are strained. My message to successors on our place, and on other small- and medium-sized ranches, is to get skilled up to incorporate the latest and best knowledge — both traditional and innovative — into a business and lifestyle which is threatened by recent world trends in our food systems.
For example, the price of inputs (fertilizer and other products) and the value of outputs (the price we get for our products) is determined by global supply and demand. An example is livestock feed, like forage and grain for cattle, and chicken feed. Wheat, barley, and soybeans are some examples of main inputs for milk, eggs, and bread.
We have heard about the impact on prices of these food stocks as they are determined by crop booms and busts in China, India, Ukraine, Brazil, and Mexico, to mention a few countries which buy and sell in the world marketplace.
How we can stabilize our own food security in the face of weather extremes, such as droughts and floods, the world over is a fundamental question facing every farmer, rancher, and would-be agricultural producer.
Schooling in business, as well as broad-based stewardship, are the underpinnings of technical knowledge for farmers. Yet we know that a passion for the business and the lifestyle is equally important for success.
Mental well-being is also critical for the long game. This speaks to the need for a farmer or rancher to know themselves and to care for those around them. Building mental health into one’s business plan and lifestyle practices is critical in an increasingly complicated world.
In a world where AI means “artificial intelligence” (not its traditional meaning in agriculture, where AI has stood for “artificial insemination”), we need to know about the quality and reliability of computer-generated knowledge. The old saying is “garbage in, garbage out” when referencing some computer programs.
This leads me to the need for the development of wisdom for farmers. They (we) need to know the value and impact of traditional and newer technical knowledge about food production. Nowhere is this more important than in the twin fields of “soil health” and “herd health”.
We can have peace of mind and resilience in action (pivoting to address change) when we know deep down that what we are doing daily contributes to our own health and that of the land and animals under our care and in nature around us.
This topic is one that treads on the soul of the modern farmer. Our behaviour, which is a real reflection of culture, needs to be founded in doing the right thing as far as our farming and ranching practices are concerned.