Posted November 1st, 2023 | By John Maman, Nutrien Financial
Helping young producers get a strong start, despite tough conditions.
At Nutrien, we see the drive, passion and determination in the agricultural industry every day, especially within the next generation of farmers. We look forward to celebrating this spirit at the 96th National FFA Convention and Expo, this week in Indianapolis, Indiana. We know the future of the ag industry is bright, and it’s the youngest leaders who will lead the way.
What’s ahead for young growers, and the industry as a whole
In 2019, the USDA published economic research from its Agricultural Resource Management Survey highlighting a number of challenges facing younger growers compared to their more established counterparts. Among them, two of the biggest hurdles for young growers to overcome: access to land and capital. The report also details other impacts, including limited scale of operations, lower share of production, and higher debt-to-asset ratios, which can limit growers’ ability to expand.
The next generation of growers will need tools and partnership to overcome these challenges. Participating with local ag organizations like FFA, is one way for young people to access these resources and cultivate partnerships that build successful, profitable operations faster.
The value of FFA
I did not have the opportunity to be part of FFA as a youth growing up near Chicago; however, I am fortunate to participate in FFA events, witnessing the organization’s valuable contribution to young, aspiring farmers. Fortunately, many individuals on our Nutrien Financial team were part of FFA or have been involved with the organization. Here is what they have to say about their experiences:
“We are blessed with an amazing FFA advisor who encourages the kids to step out of their comfort zone and learn new things. My son went from being a bit shy to an amazing public speaker during his time in FFA.” – Hollie Rudy, Territory Sales Manager
“FFA led me to pursue an agriculture degree and join an Ag Fraternity (AGR) in college, which put me on a path to a career in the ag field. It led me to continue with agriculture leadership programs. FFA is highly recommended to expose young people to real-world agriculture and understand our food and fiber industry.” – Logan Spalding, Territory Sales Manager
“My fondest high school memories were from my FFA experiences. I competed in many competitions, from tractor driving to flower arranging to land judging. My senior year, I had the highest score in the state in the land judging competition and our team placed first…Today, I am the FFA Alumni president for the high school I attended. I will forever cherish that blue and gold jacket.” – April Tutor, Territory Sales Manager
“As an adult, I have had the opportunity to serve on the FFA Scholarship Committee at my local high school for two years. I’ve reviewed the resumes and interviewed outstanding FFA high school seniors for $500 college scholarships, and always come away impressed at the knowledge, ability, accomplishments and passion of these FFA scholarship applicants.” – Scott Bame, Territory Sales Manager
“I participated in FFA in middle school through high school. It was a great experience with a community of students who were looking to expand their knowledge and skill in the world of agriculture.” – Justin Little, Territory Sales Manager
Developing the next generation of farm leaders for success
We have all looked for guidance on our first steps into our future careers. Organizations like FFA have a big impact on making that entry smooth. Economic barriers will always exist; however, surrounding oneself with dedicated advocates for success will help youth navigate life’s inevitable challenges. FFA provides this group of advocates and connects them to the youth who will lead our industry into the future!
Tips that I often share with young growers include:
- Build your circle of influence: Think about the people you trust to look out for your best interests and build those relationships in a way that supports your business. This includes mentors, advisors, family members, and even industry partners and vendors who have the skills and experience that can help make a difference in the success of your operation.
- Don’t approach the challenges of farming alone. It is ok to ask for help and advice. Connect with those who have shared views of where you are, and where you want to go and then take the extra steps to build your industry connections
- Research and explore the variety of options to manage your expenses. This will include various lines of credit, financing programs for specific expenses like equipment, land and inputs, and/or FSA loan programs.
- Understand your cash flow needs. Align your financing terms and other expenses with your crop income to proactively managing revenue and expenses. With a clear financial picture, young growers may also see a need to rely on supplemental, off-farm income as they generate sufficient profits to cover things like living expenses, repayment on student loans, or other sources of debt.
The next generation of leaders will drive the ag industry forward, with support from seasoned growers, crop consultants and industry experts. Above all, my biggest tip for young growers is to enjoy this maturation process, while having the opportunity to learn from those who have gone before them. The youth of FFA are the future of our industry, and it us up to all of us to help enable their success.
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