Agriculture is one of the most important sectors of the global economy, providing food, income, and livelihoods for billions of people. However, agriculture is also facing many challenges: climate change, population growth, environmental degradation, and market volatility. To overcome these challenges and ensure food security and sustainability, agriculture needs innovation and adaptation. And who better to lead this change than young people?
Young people are the future of agriculture. They have the potential, the passion, and the creativity to make it more productive, profitable, and resilient than ever before.
However, this doesn’t come without obstacles: limited access to land, finances, education, and training opportunities to name a few. They also often perceive agriculture as a low-status, low-income, and high-risk occupation, and prefer to hit up the big cities in search of “better opportunities” in the form of desk jobs. Therefore, it is crucial to engage, empower, and support young people in agriculture as soon as possible, and to create an enabling environment that attracts and retains them in the sector.
“How can we do that?” I hear you ask. Well…
Give young people good education and training, both in school and outside, that teach them how to farm and do business. Not too long ago I read about 140 primary school children visiting an estate and mixed farm in Shropshire… start them young, show them where their food comes from, teach them the value of the sector!
Help young people get land, money, seeds, tools, and information, by making land laws fairer, giving them loans and grants, helping them with farming advice, and using cool digital stuff and apps. In a conversation with a client recently, a discussion arose about an opportunity for a young person to utilise some land on the client’s estate to develop an enterprise of their own. An opportunity to be surrounded by knowledgeable people, with some land (in exchange for labour on the farm) to enable a young person to start something great – a little goes a long way!
Let young people have a say and a role in farming policies and institutions, by listening to them, making them part of decisions, making their groups and networks stronger, and making policies and programs that work for them. More and more industry events are adding young people to their invites, award-recipients and guest speaker lists because their input matters!
Celebrate and reward young people for their awesome work in farming, by telling their stories, giving them mentors and guidance, and giving them recognition (maybe even a Farmer’s Weekly Awards nomination – the thought and time taking will demonstrate more than the actual receiving of said awards, trust me!)
By engaging young people in agriculture, we can tap into their energy and creativity. We can also ensure the continuity and sustainability of the sector and create a sustainable future for everyone. Young people are not only the future of agriculture, but they are also the present. Let’s support them and work with them to make agriculture continue to thrive in the UK.