Millennials – are they into agriculture?

According to this article published first by Farm Online and then by Stock Journal, Gen Y (18-29) aka “millennials” simply don’t care where their food comes from.

On National Agriculture Day a poll was created in conjunction with TEG Insights, and they found that around a quarter (22.7%) of millennials stated that they “don’t care at all” where their food comes from. 

But this kind of thinking may be seeing the glass half empty, according to SE NRM Board Advisory Group Chair Fiona Rasheed.

“I suppose it’s all about how you interpret the results. 45.9% were somewhat interested, 20.5% were interested, and 11.6% were very interested. That means roughly 78% were somewhat or very interested.”

Ms Rasheed also pointed out that the methodologies of the poll meant that it was run every year for the national holiday, and that the sample size was 1,000 participants. Therefore the data set won’t make “that much of a difference” in terms of an analysis of how millennials – and other age demographics – engage with the primary industries. 

“In the South East region we do see young people in farming, but understandably it’s not for everyone. You’ve got to have a passion for it, as it can be tough,” said Ms Rasheed.

“We’re lucky that lamb, beef and wool are at high prices, but it can still be hard work.”

One of the key points about the purpose of the survey in the article came from National Farmers Federation Tony Mahar, who was disappointed to see that one in four young people were apathetic about agriculture.

“While some might say that this is a credit to the quality, safety and abundance of food and fibre we produce in Australia, it’s troubling that as a country we’re growing increasingly disconnected from life’s essentials,” Mr Mahar was quoted as saying.

Whilst Ms Rasheed agrees that it’s always useful for people, particularly those in metropolitan areas, to know about agriculture, there have been some positive developments. 

Hobby farming is on the rise, and the media coverage about the drought in northern states is making more people aware of climate variables.

“When people go into farming, they get an understanding of how food is produced, and about the market – prices, quality assessment, that sort of thing,” said Ms Rasheed.

“Hailstorm Heroes is a great campaign – even though our food can be grown in rough weather, it’s still good food.”

Hailstorm Heroes is a campaign to support apple and pear growers in SA who had their crops affected by storms in 2017 – you can read the Herald’s report here.

Overall, Ms Rasheed believes that there has been a greater public awareness about sustainable farming practices, and ethical consumption.

And, as the Chair pointed out, it’s starting young – Landcare Australia have launched ‘Grant for Gardens’, which gives schools funding to create outdoor education spaces. 

Across Australia, schools are now creating sensory spaces and gardens with an array of vegetation. 

Initiatives like Grant for Gardens could possibly create the next generation of farmers, agronomists, and other agricultural workers.