Hold contests to create interest in agriculture

July 30, 2012

Young farmers are our future. Find out what is being done around the world to promote farming.

News reports and talks of drought are filling headlines these days with food prices suspected to rise, and more and more people feeling that food is out of their control. The Lempert Report sees an opportunity here to pose a challenge to young people across the country not only to come up with viable food and farming solutions but also how to make farming truly cool. The truth is we need more young farmers and farms. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the world needs to open up 6 million hectares of land every year for the next 30 years to meet expected food demand.

According to FastCompany.com, the Rockefeller Foundation recently organized a contest with three challenges to find the best ideas to bring young people back to the land. "We’ve got to attract more people particularly small shareholders into farming," says Michael Myers of the Rockefeller Foundation. The three challenges included are encouraging young people to go into farming, improving the efficiency of water use in agriculture, and using data to help urban communities.

Ultimately many of the entries were geared towards changing perceptions of farming and focused on Africa (Note: the average age of African Farmers is 60, and Africa holds 60 percent of the available land for farming). According to Myers, "There are massive pressures for young people to migrate to urban areas. And that’s not just true in Africa, but across the planet."

Clearly, the need for young farmers in Africa is imperative, but a similar trend is occurring in the US. Take California for example where more than half of the country's fruits, nuts and vegetables are produced as well as being the number one dairy state and producing nearly 50 percent of the nation's flowers and nursery products - a similar demographic trend can be seen. The average age of a California farmer is 58, and nearly 20 percent are 70 or older. As these farmers approach retirement, California needs to train young farmers if we are to continue to feed our country and keep a healthy rural economy in the future. Here lies the opportunity for retailers and CPGs to hold contests with college aged customers – they are innovative and will have thought about potential challenges from a different angle than you might have in your meeting rooms.

Getting this demographic involved in your brand is a step in the right direction.