GREENSBORO, N.C. — As a new generation of growers prepares to take over their family farms, agribusinesses like Syngenta are getting ready for the transition. These young growers are part of America’s largest demographic — millennials, generally defined as people born between 1982 and 2004.
“Millennials are one of the most talked about but least understood generations,” said Gil Strader, head of field force excellence and training at Syngenta. “We’re finding fascinating insights that can help bridge this generation knowledge gap.”
Strader is sharing these insights with his sales and marketing colleagues to help them better understand millennials. “We’ve implemented a major initiative to train our employees who interact the most with resellers and growers to build trust, improve service and strengthen partnerships.”
The training includes learning about millennials as customers, listening to what they want from a company, and connecting older and younger generations to foster mentoring. As a result, Syngenta is helping to shatter myths about what makes younger growers tick. For example, contrary to popular belief, millennials are not self-absorbed, indecisive or addicted to social media.
“We are finding that young farmers are serious decision makers who crave connection and communications,” said Lynn Sandlin, lead of market research and insight at Syngenta. “They want to have great business relationships with the people they work with.”
As agriculture transitions from one generation to the next, these relationships are evolving. While most principal operators are 55 and older, as noted in the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, younger growers, like Rob DeFauw, are making more farm-management decisions.
“I want to make the best, most informed decisions I can,” said DeFauw, 31, who farms with his father-in-law near Geneseo, Illinois. “I would rather visit with someone over the phone or in person, instead of wading through millions of Google search pages to find answers.”
Millennial farmers are hungry for knowledge and gather information from a variety of sources. DeFauw uses smartphone apps, Twitter, farm magazine articles and AM radio. He also appreciates insights from his Syngenta representative, Trent Rowland. He’s very knowledgeable and shares answers that help me learn,” said DeFauw. “I’m relying on him more and more to help fine-tune my management decisions.”
Not surprisingly, millennials view farming not only as a business, but also a lifestyle. “These young people are very serious about what they’re trying to accomplish on the job, but they also want to have a high quality of life,” Sandlin said.
DeFauw appreciates advisers like those from Syngenta, who understand young growers and want to help them reach their goals. “They work with me to find the right solutions and support the decisions I make to help our business succeed,” he said.
To learn more about millennials and other agricultural trends, go to www.syngentathrive.com. From Millennials Rising by Neil Howe and William Strauss, American historians and business partners, who are credited with naming and defining the millennial generation.
For more articles concerning young farmers, click here.