Now is the time for young farmers to take the lead, speak out and connect with consumers to help ensure their future in agriculture, said Iowa Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Advisory Committee chair.

"There is a growing divide between those who farm and those who want to tell us how to farm. Simply doing our jobs, and doing them well, and keeping to ourselves, that’s not enough anymore," said Jacob Handsaker, a Hardin County Farm Bureau member and state young farmer chair, at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual meeting last week in Des Moines.

"We have to be a whole lot better at telling our story, at sharing our passion, at building trust ... We need to find new ways to show (consumers) that we are doing the right thing," he added.

Handsaker said that when farmers formed the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation nearly 100 years ago, they believed that uniting together would be more beneficial for their families and for agriculture as a whole.

Farmers today must carry on that legacy of leadership in support of what Farm Bureau stands for: strong families, strong communities and a strong agriculture profession, he added.

"Our founders understood that we cannot go at it alone ... Every one of us has the responsibility to do our part and lead our neighbors to do their part when it comes to living off the land and raising food for all," Handsaker said.

Telling ag’s story

He urged young farmers to find new ways to tell their story and connect with consumers, who increasingly want to know more about how their food is grown and raised.

It’s easy to talk farming with friends and neighbors, Handsaker said, but farmers also need to get comfortable with talking to those outside of agriculture if they want to bring about the most change.

"This is the time for us to all work together, to show our communities, media and those far and wide what we do, so today’s consumers understand the whole story and not selected parts or the rants of those against us," Handsaker said. "We must find ways to share our story every day, and I encourage you to do so."

Handsaker also encouraged young farmers to learn from others, particularly those with differing viewpoints, and to listen to their concerns.

"Working with others, being open to ideas, standing together to achieve common goals is how we will better our profession and ourselves," he said.

Young farmers, and Farm Bureau, have a unique opportunity in the next few years to shape agriculture for the future, Handsaker added.

"Let’s show the world that we will rise to the challenge and meet the needs and concerns of a growing world," he said.