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Farming is cool again with a younger generation

For most of us rooted in agriculture, farming has always been cool. But the realities and harshness of farming and ranching haven’t always made what feels cool a career choice or path.

A man and a woman stand in a farm shop at a computer.
The next generation to work on farms, ranches and in agribusinesses might not come from traditional farm backgrounds, Katie Pinke says. Instead, they may be influenced by farm YouTube personalities like Zach Johnson to join the field.
Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC
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“All of a sudden, farming is cool again. Now that it’s on YouTube the kids want to be farmers again,” said Zach Johnson, known as Millennial Farmer on YouTube and across social media platforms, in a recent interview with AgweekTV’s Emily Beal at the Crary Full Pod Event.

Zach Johnson — better known as The Millennial Farmer — talked to AgweekTV's Emily Beal during the Crary Full Pod Event.

For most of us rooted in agriculture, farming has always been cool. But the realities and harshness of farming and ranching haven’t always made what feels cool a career choice or path.

What Johnson said in his interview stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about how the next generation of farmers won’t all be the “next” family generation on a traditional farm.

The next generation of agriculturists may sprout from youth who grow up watching farmers on YouTube, pursue agriculture education and choose an agricultural career path.

Those watching farmers on YouTube could enroll in agriculture education courses in their high school and join an FFA chapter. Or youth watching farmers on YouTube may join a local 4-H club.

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How we bring new and more people into agriculture changed and continues to evolve. Yes, agriculture is a way of life, but gone are the days that we only follow the way things used to be.

Agriculture needs more people, more of a future generation, and how we bring them to our rural communities, farms and ranches requires varied approaches.

I ignore the critics and focus on the connectors creating the changes we need to grow a future for agriculture, making farming cool to new audiences.

In the winter of 2016, I met Zach Johnson at a west-central Minnesota supper club where I was a county soybean and corn growers banquet speaker, sharing about the importance of farmers sharing their stories and building connections outside of agriculture to a group of farmers.

Johnson was the chair of the county corn and soybean organization and event organizer. He shared his desire and plan to start sharing about his farm and agriculture practices in social media.

I remember specifically sharing with Johnson to not start a blog, as I was a burned-out blogger at the time. Instead try YouTube, I said, which was and is the second largest search engine behind Google.

Agriculture needs content created by agriculturists, I said. I continue to support that statement in my work at Agweek where we have more than 250 years of combined agriculture experience on our editorial team.

On an early spring day in 2016, Johnson texted that the YouTube channel launched, with zero subscribers.

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As of today, the Millennial Farmer YouTube channel has 983,000 subscribers. That’s far more than the population of my home state of North Dakota, which just hit a record of nearly 780,000 residents in 2022.

Imagine if 1% of those YouTube subscribers are Gen Zers, born from the late 1990s to early 2010s who choose to engage in agriculture — 9,830 agriculture students who choose agriculture careers. Maybe there are 9,830 future agribusiness employees or business owners, large animal veterinarians, animal scientists, and plant pathologists. The list is long and opportunities are bright.

Farming being cool to a new generation motivates me. Let's not limit ourselves to how we make farming cool again. Utilize new technology and platforms to connect and show others just exactly why farming is cool and how it is possible for them to know, live and work in growing food, fiber and fuel.

Make farming cool again. Or for those of us who always thought farming is cool, share your why and purpose of living and working in agriculture with others.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

Opinion by Katie Pinke
Katie Pinke serves as Agweek and AgweekTV's publisher and general manager and since 2015 has written a weekly column. Pinke resides in rural North Dakota with her husband and children where she is a 4-H leader, active community volunteer, and a proud fifth-generation farmers' daughter.
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