Youth eager to till earth
Farming is cool. Even before Kenny Chesney's song "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" came on the scene years ago, farmers and ranchers already understood the allure of agriculture.
That's why the burgeoning youth movement in agriculture is to be applauded, and loudly.
Whether it's the Greenhorns, a loose-knit group of young farmers and ranchers that is spreading across the country on a wave of publicity generated by the feature film of the same name, or any other group, they are all to be encouraged.
A scan of Facebook and other social media Internet sites turns up hundreds of other young farmers' groups, too. They range from the FFA, 4-H, commodity groups and livestock groups' programs to the Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ranchers. They include groups like "I Love Farmers ... They Feed My Soul" that consists of college students and other young adults. You can even find the National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs, which has 23,000 members in the United Kingdom.
Every one of them is welcome in agriculture's big tent.
That's not a reflection in any way on those of us who are a bit more "mature" and already involved in ag. If anything, it's an affirmation of our accomplishments. Generations of farmers and ranchers have built this great nation from the ground up. In fact, many of our founding fathers were farmers.
In that and many other ways, agriculture is in the blood of every American.
It is no surprise then, that a younger generation of farmers is looking to the land to build a life.
Last week on Vashon Island in Washington state's Puget Sound, 250 to 300 young farmers gathered to talk and learn about farming -- and to celebrate it.
"I've found when there's something that needs a bunch of people -- whether it's seeding, butchering, pruning, planting, digging -- music and preferably beer help," Severine Von Tscharner Fleming said. She is the sparkplug behind the Greenhorn movement and directed the film.
Her words ring true for the many folks who live and work in the country. When a big job needs to get done, the more the merrier. Branding, building fence, putting up a new barn -- all represent an opportunity for neighbors and friends to pitch in and maybe share an ice tea or two afterward.
One commodity that farmers, young and old, need is information. Our hope is that young farmers avail themselves of the wisdom that is available to them. Extension services, agricultural organizations, research stations and many other sources of information are readily accessible, but another source of information can also be tapped: neighbors. Though farmers are busy, they often do have the time to share their experiences and a few words of wisdom.
In fact, as much information has been shared over the fence as at any university.
So, young friends, welcome. We're tickled that you have joined in the most important profession in the world -- growing the food and fiber that feed and clothe us all.
Your enthusiasm, viewpoints and excitement are welcome amid the cacophony of voices that is American agriculture.