I first walked on the scene of agriculture three years ago as a recent college graduate ready to take on the world. With zero ag experience, I was shocked to begin working in an industry filled with extremely successful businessmen who still used flip phones and had never sent an email in their lives.
More recently, I was surprised to learn our sales department was invited to participate in a national webinar titled “How to Deal with Millennials in Agriculture.” The title alone demonstrates that the younger generation and their comfort with new technology is something new to the agriculture scene. We have arrived and we’re bringing our native comfort with technology to an industry as old as life on the planet.
Now three years in as an equipment and agricultural technology salesman in Kern County, I have found a large amount of tech-savvy variance in the local farmers: Some stick to the way their families have been farming for generations; others embrace the change. One person at the end of the technology spectrum has never sent a text message; the person at the other end is monitoring fluctuations in trunk diameter in order to precisely plan irrigation events based on the actual needs of a particular tree.
That represents quite a spread between different farmers growing the same crop in the same county.
For the most part, the common denominator is the age of the people involved on the farm. Older gentlemen whose children are not involved are usually still farming close to the same way their grandfathers farmed. Farmers who have integrated younger generations are more willing to accept change and adapt.
In addition to the equipment, which measures tree trunk diameters, there are plenty of other amazing pieces of new technology that are coming from younger generations, such as “smart” pesticide sprayers, which use real-time weather information to monitor wind conditions and prevent the pesticides from drifting. Almond growers are using new equipment to scan almonds on the ground, allowing them to create a yield map for each tree. Those same almond growers can now measure hydration levels of each tree to determine when the nuts are ready to shake for harvest.
The industry of agriculture is viewed as rough and dirty, dominated by older, hard-working men. They bring decades – generations, really – of experience and expertise. But the business is adapting as more and more millennials become decision-makers and bring their science-based tech with them.
Both generations can bring their strengths to increase production and together redefine the business of agriculture. As one of those millennials, I am excited to help bring a new familiarity and understanding of technology to a business as old as the earth itself.
Dane Oleson moved to Bakersfield in 2010 to attend California State University, Bakersfield, and swim for the school, graduating in 2014. He now sells tractors and agricultural technology at Kern Machinery. Dane is a newlywed, happily married to an NICU nurse named Anna. The views expressed in this column are his own.