Millennial tendencies can benefit the agricultural industry

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As a millennial, one of my biggest pet peeves is when my elders roll their eyes and use the phrase, “Your generation…(fill in the blank with some comment about how our reliance on technology reflects our inability to interact with others or has hindered our formal written communication and speaking skills.)” Below is a list of some of the stereotypes associated with the millennial generation, along with a few links to blogs and articles that expand on them further.

  • They are entitled; they expect things to be handed to them.
  • They are “know-it-alls.”
  • They are job hoppers.
  • They are too plugged in.
  • They have no concept of privacy.

While I would like to take the time to elaborate on these stereotypes – not to completely debunk them but to explain their benefits and how they were inevitable because of societal changes – I am going to focus on the last two and how it is essential for farmers and other agriculturalists to embrace these characteristics to ensure the progression and transparency of their industry.

They are too plugged in.

While there isn’t necessarily an exact age range for millennials, generally speaking, they were born between 1981 and 1997. Meaning, these 18-34 year-olds have grown up almost their entire lives with access to cable TV, the internet and cell phones. Consequently, digital media has become a comfortable source for them to find information, stay connected with family and friends and share their story.

From an individual or company perspective, we all have a story to share. What types of pictures and posts do you share on social media?

  • A victory for a sports team?
  • A visit to another state or country?
  • Events and news related to your work?
  • Socials with family and friends?

For those involved in the agricultural industry, they know just how important it is to share agriculture’s story. In a time when less than 2 percent of the United State’s population is involved with farming and ranching, there are not many people directly involved with production agriculture. I don’t want to portray this as bad news, because this has allowed other individuals to spend their time progressing modern medicine and other advancements that improve our daily lives. However, it is still important to keep them in the conversation, because not only do we eat on a daily basis, but our diet directly affects our health and livelihood.

So how do we reach this 98%, which equates to over 312 million Americans? Do we share it in person? A newspaper article? A video? While any form of communication is better than none, the industry can benefit most by using online social media outlets.

Facebook is a news powerhouse. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults use Facebook, and of those adults, half of them get their news there. That means over one hundred million Americans receive news stories via Facebook. And the best part…one doesn’t have to be a journalist our news anchor to share. While this presents some credibility hurdles, it allows every American the opportunity to share their personal story. So when you see individuals on their phones like below, don’t shake your head in disgust. Rather, put into perspective the meaningful engagement that could lead to education and advancement personally or professionally.

Cell Phones

They have no concept of privacy.

While this might be a strong statement, something can be learned from this stereotype. In a world where professionals become specialized in a trade or skill, it can be challenging to stay up-to-date with other industry affairs. But because every person consumes agricultural products, transparency within farming and food processing is almost essential. While the industry has taken it upon itself to set standards for animal welfare and food safety, this needs to be transferable to the public.

By tearing down the “privacy barrier”, the industry can regain or maintain the public’s trust. Many of you might be wondering, how might the industry have lost this trust in the first place? Animal activists groups, in their interest of creating a vegan world, have misinformed the public through videos and stories. By capturing staged imagery or misinterpreting standard industry practice, they have sparked and capitalized on public interest about the way farm animals are being raised.

Animal welfare has been and will continue to be a top priority among American farmers and ranchers. They can prove this to the American public by being more open and transparent. Now, I am not suggesting that they be required to install video cameras and release this footage to the public upon demand. Just like every other business, they have the right to some privacy. However, current trends are demanding more transparency among the industry. Therefore, by becoming more open, whether that is inviting interest groups to their farms for a tour or sharing their story through digital media, they can become more transparent with the public.

Embrace Being a Millennial

So as a millennial, I could dispute, argue or complain about the stereotypes associated with my generation. Rather, I want to highlight how they can be beneficial to the agricultural industry. As a rising college senior studying agricultural communication, I know just how important it is to bridge the communication gap between the producer and consumer. Therefore, it is my desire to embrace the changing trends in society to help accomplish this.

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