Generational Ranching: Millennials and Generation Z
In the 17 years I’ve known my Casey it’s hard to recall a time that he wasn't talking about ranching or following in his families footsteps raising cows and colts. Both of Casey’s grandfathers were involved in large cattle and ranching operations in California running feedlots and raising horses. So when Casey called from the sale yard to tell me he spent our entire furniture budge for the new home on bred heifers it wasn’t a surprise. Don't worry I ended up refinishing furniture I got for free on craigslist but we’re still waiting on two of the heifers to calve. To say the least, we are grateful for the opportunity to keep ranching alive in our family and for generations to come because the world needs a lot more ranches... and fast.
"he spent the entire furniture budge for our new home on bred heifers"
Generational ranching from parents to children has been on a downward spiral for the last 50 years while the average age of farmers and ranchers has risen to 57.5 years old. The 2017 census reported 1.1million farmers and ranchers over the age of 65 with only 390,000 ranchers under the age of 44 and 234,000 ranchers like Casey and I are 35 years or younger, AKA millennials.
1. More than half of the nations farmers and ranchers are over the age of 65.
As much as the world loves to blame millennials, the first large drop in ranching came from Generation X, born 1965-1976, which is also the smallest generation based on populations size. Generation X sought out careers in technology, banking, and education that offered stability and freedom that ranchers seldom enjoy. That stability is what allowed them to have larger families than the they had.
2. The first large drop in ranching came from Generation X, born 1965-1976.
The global population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion, a 2.2 billion increase by 2050. Feeding a population of that magnitude will require farmers and ranchers to increase production by 70%. Meanwhile, 31 million acres of agricultural land was sold to land developers between 1992 and 2012 leaving farmers and ranchers with less land, higher operating costs, and the pressure to produce larger crops than ever.3. First Generational ranchers will be expected to increase current production by 70% before 2050.
Insert Generation Z, those born1996 - present. By 2050 millennials will be 55-73 and Generation Z, the most educated or “schooled” generation will have taken over the workforce and if we have done our job well they will have an active role in agriculture. The issues millennials and generation Z will need to tackle include: land transfers beyond immediate family members, preserving prime agriculture land, and providing accessible capital for start-up businesses.
4. Generation Z, will be the most educated generation and we get them interested in agriculture NOW!
Careers in agriculture aren't limited to working long days on the families spread although that is an option for some. Generation Z’er’s looking for big opportunities outside the families fences will find all they are dreaming of and more in Ag Business including 17 of the top Fortune 500 companies, research laboratories, and politics including congress and our nation's capital. Cattle was the top-ranked commodity in 2017 claiming over 77 billion dollars in sales followed by corn (51.2 billion), poultry (49.2 billion), soybeans (40.3 billion) and milk (36.7 billion) accord to the USDA. Young people wanting to learn more about getting started can contact Natural Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the only federal program dedicated to training the first generation ranchers and farmers that provides grants and resources to get new operations started!
5. Technology and the internet will change the connection the world has with their food.
Unlike previous generations, Gen Z has an overwhelmingly positive outlook when it comes to government entities including as well as technology and connectedness. I bet you've watched a video from YouTube or Facebook today, in fact, there is a 70% chance you so from a mobile device, the point is that the world is becoming more connected via video and live stream and agriculture will be no exception. Soon large ranches will have a 24-hour live stream where fans can log in and see cattle grazing or corn being harvested. The consumers of Generation Y have reported that the way an animal is raised is important, and almost half of them were willing to pay more as a result according to a recent survey. Grab your iPhones and get ready because we're in for a lot of exciting changes in the near future!