July 4, 2019

The complexity of the multi-generational farm

By Shannon Warren

Generations of farmers working the land together has been a common sight throughout North America. Historically, the shifting of the balance of power has been a slow evolution, but not anymore. As the complexity of the farming enterprise continues to grow, farmers are continuing to evolve how they operate the day to day operations of the farm.

Insights from the joint Purdue University/University of Guelph Multi-Generational Farm Study begins to provide context for how the modern multi-generational farm operates and what the future holds as a new generation takes over the farm.

AdFarm explored these topics last summer and highlighted a few key takeaways from the research.

Download our nine key takeaways from the Multi-Generational Farm Study  →

Defining the generations

Defining generations and where they begin and end can be unclear. There is little consistency between sources, most define a generation as a group of people that are born around the same time and raised having similar experiences.

Currently the oldest generation today is known as the silent generation, those born prior to the end of World War II. The baby boomers follow being born from 1946 until 1964—the only generation to have consistent start and end dates—and range in age from 55-73. And as we know the average age of today’s farmer is in their mid to late 50s.

Generation X follows the Boomers, born between 1965 and the late 1970s to early 1980s—some say ‘77 some say ‘81—putting them in their late 30s to early 50s age range.

Millennials, currently the most talked about generation come next and depending on the source the oldest are now in their mid-late 30s and the youngest in their mid 20s. Millennials are born between the late 1970s to about 1995.

The newest generation is just entering the workplace and they are currently called Generation Z or Gen Z. The start date of Gen Z is around 1996-97. Gen Z is the first generation where the events of 9/11 are a part of history—they have little to no memory of them happening.

The millennials have been well studied and researchers are just beginning to look at Gen Z as they begin to make their mark on society. Comparisons are starting to be made between millennials and Gen Z, which can assist in developing an understanding of how they will affect the selling and marketing of products.

What does this mean for the future of agriculture?

Studies, like the Multi-Generational Farm Study, provides us insight into the differences between generations—including attitudes, goals, buying behaviors and farming practices, combined with family dynamics. But it also provides significant clues as to how marketing and sales approaches need to adapt in order to reach the younger generation, intent on advancing agriculture.

Questions or would like more insight? Contact us.

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