There’s an emerging trend happening in the United States—millennials leaving cushy, 9 to 5 jobs in temperature-controlled office buildings to get their hands dirty, outside on the farm. And frankly, it doesn’t surprise me one bit.
My husband, Craig, works for a great company in West Des Moines doing IT consulting, but he’s really in his element when he’s behind the wheel of a tractor, wearing dingy blue jeans and a ball cap, helping his dad on the farm. And he’s not alone in the pull he feels toward agriculture.
Brian Jones, an Adair County Farm Bureau member, grew up on a farm near Greenfield but after graduating high school, took off to explore other opportunities. He lived in Omaha for 10 years, working in the auto dealership and insurance industries and enjoying the activities and social life a metro city has to offer. About the time Brian’s dad began farming more ground and his grandpa began working fewer hours, Brian was ready to leave the corporate world behind. The shift to precision ag and technology in farming appealed to him, and his knowledge of tech, helped him implement new practices on their family farm. He returned to the farm 10 years ago and never looked back. He says farming is a lifestyle he’s coming to appreciate more and more—from the ability to make your own decisions, be 100% responsible for your farm and being able to try new things without having to take a vote. Despite the hardships and challenges of farming, Brian says it’s his deep-rooted connection to the land that makes him stay
. And he loves sharing his on-farm stories!
After graduating college, Guthrie County Farm Bureau member Adam Ebert, had a short stint at a major insurance company in Des Moines while also working for a co-op. To stay connected to their agricultural roots, he and his wife Mary would come back to their parents’ farms every weekend. Adam soon realized he loved his weekend job, more than his ‘day job,’ so they made the leap into farming, buying a home with a couple acres of land in Guthrie County. They worked, saved and grew their farm, an acre at a time, and built their own hog barn. The Eberts now raise corn, soybeans, hay, cattle and hogs and are lauded for their contributions. In 2016, Adam was named the recipient of the IFBF Bob Joslin Leadership Award for demonstrating outstanding leadership in Farm Bureau, agriculture and his community. He and Mary have enjoyed raising their growing family on the farm, and continue to get excited about things in agriculture they never imagined they would – to the point that today, even new accounting software gets them energized!
Even young people not directly working on a farm have followed a path in agriculture with their entrepreneurial spirit—like Matthew Rooda who received mentorship from Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa Program and went on to be named the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Entrepreneur of the Year with his “FitBit for pigs.” He is co-founder and CEO of SwineTech, a company that innovated a product to reduce piglet mortality. While attending community college, Matthew took a job working in a farrowing barn where he observed mama pigs—or sows—accidentally crushing their piglets beneath their body weight. It seemed to be a common occurrence, no matter how much space the sow had to nurse her pigs. So, Matthew transferred to the University of Iowa to study genetics and biotechnology in hopes to find an answer to this common problem. He then realized perhaps the sows could be conditioned and taught not to crush their piglets. After talking with farmers to see what they wanted in a product and looking into possibilities with today’s technology, Matthew invented a device that pairs with a small patch put on the sow that tracks her movements and the sound of the piglets. If the “SmartGuard” device senses danger for the piglets, it sends a gentle shock to the sow to deter her from laying on her young. Among Matthew’s accolades for his innovation was being named on Forbes “30 Under 30” list in 2018.
As we approach this year’s Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Conference on Feb. 2 and 3, there will be young folks from across the state who have been helping on the farm since they were old enough to reach the clutch on the tractor and some just getting their start. Whether their tools of the trade are combines to harvest or computers to create farming innovations, together they will help create products that can solve the many challenges agriculture faces.
As older generations begin turning their land over to a younger generation who are ready to leave archaic office machines behind for high-flying drones, I believe we’ll see the excitement continue. I, for one, can’t wait to see what comes next!
By Caitlyn Lamm. Caitlyn is Iowa Farm Bureau's public relations specialist.