Navigating Generational Differences in Ag

Clint Thompson Citrus, Florida, Top Posts

With more than one generation working side by side on the farm, there are situations that can be tricky to navigate at times. However, it’s important to take the time to look at things through another person’s vantage point and consider how to cater to the strengths of each generation to better the farming operation.

The most recent and concluding session of the six-part professional development webinar series by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) discusses effective strategies to navigate generational differences in agriculture and natural resource industries. (Another webinar in the series addressed mental health in agriculture; see more here.)

As of 2016, five generations — traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z — were working side by side.

Megan Stein

“Research indicates that as people are becoming older, they are no longer retiring at the same age as they had in previous generations,” says Megan Stein, a lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication for UF/IFAS and host of the webinar.

Working with multiple generations can be difficult. Generations are influenced by key events that took place as they were developing as children into adulthood. Social, political and economic differences as well as education and values all play a significant role in generations.

Generation Z, generally recognized as being born from 1997 to 2012, may play an interesting role as it relates to agriculture and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As COVID-19 caused a shutdown across the state of Florida around mid-March and early April, this was the time that a lot of Florida’s spring crops were ready for harvest.

“For the first time in recent memory, there was a real challenge with the supply chain. We had the supply, we had the demand from people who were purchasing extreme volume of these items. However, there wasn’t the ability to get the product from the agriculturalist to the consumer through normal supply chain channels,” Stein says.

Because of this, many growers chose to sell directly to consumers or donate their produce. As mentioned in the webinar, Gen Z responds extremely well to socially conscious missions, meaning they tend to patronize and support companies that align with their values or that they perceive as socially responsible.

As the older members of Gen Z are solidifying their buying habits, experts have seen that Gen Z has responded greatly to the ability to connect with producers and the agricultural industry and learn more about the industry during COVID-19 times.

“As Generation Z takes up more of the buying power in our country, it will be interesting to see how that influence directly impacts them,” Stein says.

To learn more about the differences in generations and how to effectively navigate those differences, click here to watch the webinar.

Ashley Robinson, AgNet Media communications intern, wrote this article.