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Reaching the next generation of farmers is an increasing concern in agriculture marketing. As those in the world of ag are well aware, the average age of farmers is far higher than most industries, creating concerns about the future of global production. In North America, reports indicate the average age of all farmers to be between 57 and 60, with even the newcomers to the field largely over the age of 45. However, the latest USDA census shed light on a positive trend: over a quarter of new producers were below the age of 35.
Encouragingly, younger generations are indicating an interest in careers in agriculture. The fastest growing age range for new farmers overlaps with older Millennials and, due to demand from the younger Gen Z population, public universities have steadily increased their offerings related to agriculture, food sciences and sustainability for the past 3 years.
For agriculture marketers, this presents a fresh audience who are engaging with emerging technologies, agribusiness resources, and the modernized tools needed to shape the future of their farms. Brands who adapt their marketing strategies to reach these digitally native individuals can establish significant value for the future of their brands.
Creating content to reach the next generation of farmers is an exciting opportunity for marketers, but don’t assume everyone in this age group is reachable with a one-size-fits-all media strategy. Though they may be united as the next generation of farmers, the current batch of “under 35s” span two generations: Millennials and Gen Z. Despite being close-ish in age, Millennials and the college-aged Gen Zs use media very differently. Agriculture marketing strategies must reflect these differences using personalized, curated approaches to reach their maximum potential.
You may still picture Millennials as young adults, but they now range from being in their late twenties to early forties. So when you picture a Millennial interested in ag, you should be picturing the “Millennial Farmer,” Zach Johnson, a 37-year old father of three who manages 2,600 acres and a popular YouTube account documenting farm life. Johnson and his fellow 30-somethings make up a group we would personify as the ‘Established Young Farmer’.
They are an ideal group to reach with branded articles, invitations to industry events or webinars, and specific product and service promotions related to their farms. Though not as seasoned as their farming mentors, the Established Young Farmer is just that, established, so marketers can openly use detailed language and concrete examples of the benefits of their offerings without worrying about losing them. This audience is ideal for any advertiser wanting to highlight their offerings related to new technologies, developments in livestock medicine or crop treatments, farm finances, and farm management tools.
Millennials have spent their entire lives adapting to new technology and are the highest educated generation to date. Many of these farmers are managing aspects of their operations that previous generations may have relied upon a business partner to handle. Additionally, this audience’s unique position of being new to the industry without being new to adulthood allows marketers the chance to speak to decision makers who are open to testing new brands and emerging technologies.
Like their older counterparts, these Established Young Farmers are reachable via terrestrial media, but the most cost-efficient path to engagement will be tapping into the digital environments this generation is native to. They’re still active users of Facebook, but are also heavier users of newer channels like streaming audio and streaming video. Don’t forget, this is the generation who almost unanimously “cut the cord” in the 2010s, so connected TV is a better avenue to reach them than cable. There was a noted exception to this trend in rural areas as the financial barrier to dependable high-speed internet access played a key role in CTV use, but this is a decreasing concern in the 2020s as the pandemic accelerated this need.
In summary, the Millennial Established Young Farmers have a few years of experience under their belts, are open to new ideas for their farms, and are reachable with cost-efficient digital media. There’s little reason to not include them in your current marketing strategies to form a long-term relationship with the immediate next generation. For brands looking further into the future of farming, let’s discuss the Emerging Agriculturalists of Generation Z.
With the new farmers entering the ag workforce in their 30s and 40s, it’s not surprising to currently see little representation of Gen Z in the field. This generation spans individuals born from the late 90s through 2010, and currently owns the youth and young adult cohort of 18-24 year-olds. Over half of Gen Zs with farm backgrounds plan to one day take over their family operations, while over 70% of Gen X farmers expect their Gen Z children to take over.
While it’s true many Gen Zs will not enter the ag workforce whatsoever, it’s also important to consider the disciplines of study within Agtech, Biotech, and Climatology that were not available to previous generations. Knowing this group’s entryway to a career in agriculture may not be the farm, we’re calling this audience the ‘Emerging Agriculturalists’.
The Emerging Agriculturalists are still deciding their futures after graduation. They’re in an ideal life stage to receive educational content and connect with industry professionals at events or online. Many are interested in tech-forward content and hearing professional testimonials or blogs to help them conceptualize the real world implications of emerging technologies. Interestingly, this generation has a more favorable opinion of GMOs and are less likely to sustain from animal agriculture compared to Millennials, so they may be a more receptive audience for thought leadership in these areas.
Another key differentiator between Millennials and Gen Z’s is their social media habits. Despite its best efforts, Facebook is viewed by this group as a “Boomer social network made for old people.” However, marketers can still take advantage of Meta’s broad reach to find Gen Z on Instagram, where they are more active.
Video content on traditional channels, such as linear TV, may not reach Gen Z at all – they are primarily “cord-nevers,” and have spent their formative years with vertical video on social platforms like Snapchat and now, TikTok. YouTube and CTV are still viable channels for repurposing more traditional content, but marketers should embrace this generation’s preference for more authentic, influencer-style placements. Look to the hashtags #farmlife and content creators like @MommyFarmer for inspiration.
One thing is true for both of these generations of future farmers: the digital landscape allows for many cost-efficient opportunities to serve them tailored messaging for a personal touch. Connect with a Coegi strategist to develop a curated plan to reach the next generation of farmers.