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Tom Martin

Young farmers share their thoughts on farming, the challenges ‎& opportunities

Feeding the world depends on the next generation of young farmers and how they handle the challenges ahead - climate change, natural resource depletion, population growth, volatile markets and a globalized market place
Tom Martin

Understanding these pressures, while being more business-savvy, ecologically-minded and innovative, is going to be needed - and thankfully this new generation gets it.

We talk to four young farmers about agriculture and what this generation can bring to the table.

Gustavo Niño, 26, Colombia

Gustavo is general manager of Allium S.A.S, which produces 250-300 tonnes of lettuce, onions and cabbages on a 2ha plot near Tocogua, north of the capital, Bogotá.

Best thing about farming

That you can see the cycle of life every day - it is amazing how a seed can become a beautiful plant.

What motivates you?

I want to change the world and agriculture is a good start. In Colombia, people who live in rural areas are less educated and less well-paid - farming can help by providing employment.

What are the biggest challenges in the food system?

Firstly, there are 800 million hungry people in a system that produces enough food for more than our current population. Secondly, the grower is overlooked: We feed the nation, but we are not paid for the effort. It is like a fairy tale with a hero that does not need a reward, just the satisfaction of doing the job well.

What would you tell other young people thinking about going into farming?

This business is difficult: You must know about many things - chemistry, biology, weather conditions, human resources, marketing, economics. But it is worth it because you are doing something important for everybody.

How is your generation approaching farming differently?

We are bringing innovation - we are taking risks and trying something new.

PeitingXu, 27, China

PeitingXu farms 12.3ha near Nantong Jiangsu, 1.5 hours by road south of Shanghai. She practices agroforestry and has chickens in woodland alongside vegetables and fruit trees such as peaches and pears.

What are you most excited about in your business/ in the industry?

I want to create a new farming system that follows nature. I hope for the sustainable development of agriculture.

What can this generation bring to farming?

Now, more and more young people are joining us and in China we sell many things online using technology. In the future I think we will sell more directly to customers.

What would you tell other young people thinking about going into farming?

In China many people think farming means to “lose face” or go backwards. The older generation thinks it is very hard, so they tell young people to go work in the city. But increasingly, farming involves large mechanizations and technology and anyway, everyone needs to eat. Farming makes me happy and I try my best to tell young people that the countryside needs them.

Reinis Balodis, 30, Latvia

Reinis grows about 1,500kg of certified grass seeds, plus oats (20ha), wheat (20ha) and buckwheat (10ha). He also has a small herd of Charolais beef cattle. His farm is near Jekabpils in south eastern Latvia.

What is the best thing about farming?

Every day is different - one day you are haying, the next day seeding or cleaning ditches or going to government authorities for reports. And of course, nature - those nice mornings when the sun shows up are really nice. Plus, I can be my own boss.

What are you most excited about in your business/ in the industry?

I love the new wave off conservation agriculture and no-till/ strip-till farming. It is new, lighter farming that involves thinking about the soil and about responsibilities for water and the impact on nature.

What are the biggest challenges in the food system?

We are seeing drought, long drought - the climate is changing, and we need to work it out.

What can this generation bring to farming?

We are an open-minded generation. We see that the industry needs to change and concentrate on a different way of farming, including how we work with nature.

Tom Martin, 38, UK

Tom grows cereals and raises sheep in Cambridgeshire, in the east of England. Before returning to the family farm, he spent 14 years in business consultancy and sales for Universal Pictures.

What is the best thing about farming?

I love being outdoors and that you can see what you’ve achieved through the fruits of your labor.

What are you most excited about in your business/ in the industry?

All farmers are experimenters. The potential really excites me - there is new ground to break and a long way to go still. It’s great to be needed too, we are a really important industry.

What can this generation bring to farming?

So much! This is the first generation that is completely comfortable with technology and data - now we have access to both and this brings huge opportunity. This generation has flexibility and energy too - plus we are interested in food.

What would you tell other young people thinking about going into farming?

You can be in farming, but not a farmer - we need technicians, agronomists, designers, soil scientists, marketers, food scientists and more. Being a farmer will become rarer, but the other roles will become more numerous.

Click here to read interview with Flavio Centola, Adama’s Product Strategy Head for Herbicides, who share his thoughts about young farmers, the future of agriculture and what part innovation and technology have to play

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