What traits does a "New Generation Farmer" have? Creativity? Environmental focus? Marketing skills?
According to a recent study prepared by MidAtlantic Farm Credit in partnership with Temple University, all are traits and habits of the New Generation farmer.
The study, which was presented in May at the National Value Added Agriculture Conference in Baltimore, Md., examined tomorrow's farmers in effort to help MidAtlantic Farm Credit tailor its services to their needs.
"Our interest in conducting a study like this stems from our desire to serve the new generation farmer," explains Bill Kitsch, MidAtlantic sales manager. "In order to serve this segment of the agricultural community, we have to look at our own business model and exercise some flexibility within our own processes."
The study found new generation farmers in general are values-driven and strongly tied to their local community. Organic farming is very common among this agricultural segment and they value sustainable farming practices.
"They are good neighbors with a respect for the environment, and a keen focus on their quality of life," Kitsch says.
That finding mirrors results of a similar survey on new and beginning farmers' concerns prepared by the American Farm Bureau earlier this year. According to the AFBF survey, young farmers and ranchers are committed environmental caretakers, with 55% using conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.
Nearly 70% of respondents in the AFBF survey also considered communicating with consumers a formal part of their jobs, many using social media. Strong communications traits were also identified in MidAtlantic's study, which found that new generation farmers tend to have strong marketing and creative skills, allowing them think of innovative ways of creating awareness of their product.
In addition, MidAtlantic found, new generation farmers have the ability to distribute their products through multiple channels, often selling directly to the customer.
The move toward understanding new farmers and helping them succeed in the industry is a focus also for the USDA, which has been beefing up new offerings for young farmers, including funding for training and technical assistance and infrastructure and equipment grants.