By Mary Hookham, for the Dairy Business Association
Who are the farmers of the future and what will they require of each of us?
This question guides and directs Brett Sciotto’s agricultural research at Aimpoint Research, where he is president and CEO. He analyzes trends in the industry and predicts how they will evolve and what impact they’ll have during the next several decades.
“For almost all farmers, this is a period of tremendous uncertainty,” Sciotto said. “Farmers always have to be thinking and planning, especially these days.”
Sciotto honed in on the role farmers’ personalities play as he shared his perspective with hundreds of farmers and agribusiness professionals on Jan. 23 at the Dairy Business Association’s annual Dairy Strong conference in Madison, Wis.
Those personality traits contribute to the success of a farm and then to the success of the overall industry, Sciotto said. He categorized several of the traits.
The “independent elites” are financially strong. They are successful, innovative and optimistic.
“Enterprising business builders” are entrepreneurial and open to new methods. They invest in their farms in order to prosper and are not afraid of taking risks because they believe they can always find a solution.
“The enterprising business builders don’t wait to be told what to do,” Sciotto said. “Nearly two-thirds of these operations grew despite the struggles of the last five years.”
The “classic practitioner” farmers are goal-oriented but resistant to new management practices. They’re struggling financially but won’t give up because they love the lifestyle.
“Self-reliant traditionals” make no effort to grow or adapt. They utilize older generational ideas and think the farmers who invest in new technology are frivolous.
The “leveraged lifestylers” showcased their success when the markets were good, but now that they’ve been tested, they’re becoming negative because of their financial struggles. They blame the markets for their failures.
Wisconsin state Rep. Gary Tauchen, a farmer from Bonduel, Wis., said Sciotto’s personality research will be helpful in developing policies for farms and the businesses that work closely with them. We can use this research to prepare for the challenges that will surely come in the future, he said.
“Look at how far we’ve come in the last 20 years,” Tauchen said. “Imagine the change that’s coming in the next 10 to 15 years. It’s going to be equivalent to what happened in the last 70 years. I think it’s an exciting time to be alive.”
Ruth Lainez of GLC Minerals in Green Bay said that in many ways the future is happening now.
“I don’t think we need to wait 20 years from now to see what (Sciotto) was talking about,” she said. “Retailers and food companies are already telling us what we need to do as is the organic industry and environmental stewardship groups.”