Millennials in Agriculture

Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce in 2025. This article combines a two part story originally published by MSU Extension about how millennials will impact the food industry as food producers as well as consumers.

December 7, 2017 - Author: George Silva, Michigan State University Extension

Woman's hand holding a tomato

This is an abridged version of a two-part series published by Michigan State University Extension on November 22, 2017. Part 1 and Part 2 are available by clicking the links.

Millennials represent a cohort born between 1980 and mid-2000. Currently, there are 80 million of them in the U.S. They will make up 75 percent of the workforce in 2025. This article combines a two part story about how millennials will impact the food industry as food producers (original article Part 1) as well as consumers (original article Part 2).

Millennials as Food Producers

Below is a list of some of the opportunities and challenges millennials are facing as food producers:

  • Millennials will be motivated to find ways to make farming more efficient and profitable by relying more on technology and entrepreneurship.
  • Millennials need easier access to land, capital, student debt relief and affordable health care.
  • Millennials will pay more attention to diversification and value added than acreage expansion. They are more apt to subscribe to community supported agriculture (CSA) and farm markets to sell their produce.
  • As communities become more diverse, there will be an increased demand for new ethnic food commodities.
  • By 2050, 70 percent of the global population will live in cities and so millennials will be looking at more urban farming opportunities.
  • Institutional barriers for women and people of color to become farmers need to be addressed.
  • Millennials will require educational resources and online tutorials. Also, high-quality internships and apprenticeships that teach hands-on skills will help millennials who have no background in farming.
  • Millennials are also inquiring about financial assistance. To this end, they should search online for a variety of federal and state assisted programs, such as the USDA Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education (SARE) grants.

Given the opportunity, millennials have the potential for success in food production from the standpoint of entrepreneurship, innovation and technology adoption. Experts believe millennials are well poised to bridge the gap between complex issues, such as rural versus urban, conventional versus organic and local versus import, that are currently polarizing the production agriculture sector.

Millennials as Food Consumers

Retailers are actively targeting millennials to cater to their desires and tendencies. Below is a list of some of the ways millennials are reshaping and transforming the food industry, demanding more choices and options.

  • Millennials tend to be discerning consumers and they are increasingly willing to pay a premium for brands and products that embody their preferences for authenticity, transparency and responsible ingredient sourcing.
  • Surveys have revealed health-conscious millennials are no longer willing to spend their food dollars on processed foods. Instead, they prefer fresh food with quality and integrity, and that is sustainably produced.
  • Millennials seek a direct connection with the food they consume, and would welcome farmers sharing their stories about how, when and where the food was produced
  • Millennials are increasingly patronizing farmers markets and restaurants that source local goods and services. Restaurants are increasingly providing diverse menu items to accommodate needs of local and healthy food enthusiasts and vegan and gluten-free customers.

Millennial famers and consumers in this transparency generation are in a unique position to process information and build consensus among stakeholders. Most experts feel their impact on the food system will be very positive and timely.


 

These articles were originally published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu/newsletters. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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