2020 Vision – Viewpoints on the Future of Agriculture

Posted: January 15, 2020

These 20-somethings are optimistic that agriculture has a bright future in 2020 and beyond. See what these grown up farm kids have to say about the changing business of agriculture and how they intend to be involved.

Justin Bolander, 24, Sycamore
Organic Farmer at Bolander Farms
& Welder at Vermeer Midwest

Q: What is your vision of agriculture?

A: I believe the future of agriculture is going to be farming more land per farmer, and with that getting good skilled workers to help run the land is going to be challenging. Also while farming this land we will have to continue to be good stewards of the land and conserve the soil through the use of cover crops. We can also use more natural fertilizers and less synthetic chemicals.

Q: What changes will drive agriculture’s future?

A:  I believe some changes that will drive agriculture’s future are the wants of the consumer, technology, and foreign affairs. I think most consumers are disconnected from agriculture and need more opportunities to see how their food is raised and grown in the field. The new technology that is in farm machinery requires less skills to be learned in order to operate the machinery.

Q:  How will you be involved?

A: I will be involved by growing organic grain and producing good quality food. I plan on doing this as well as being a conservationist by taking care of the land and wildlife around me.

Q: What inspires young people to seek a career in agriculture/agribusiness?

A: Something that inspires young people to seek a career in agriculture/agribusiness is having or gaining the heart and passion to succeed and grow in agriculture. It is hard – there are ups and downs – but you have to be up for the challenge to face those hard times with hard work and motivation. You have to have the mindset that what you are doing is going to affect how the world’s food is produced.

About Justin: I am the son of Glenn and the late Carol Bolander. I started farming during my high school years with my father, Glenn, and Uncle Dale. While farming, I attended Kishwaukee College and received an associate degree and certification in diesel mechanics. I work for Vermeer Midwest as a fabricator and welder. Our farm transitioned from traditional crops into organic crops five years ago. My wife, Kelsey, and I reside on our family farm.

 

Amy Newell, 23, Sycamore
Financial Officer at Compeer Financial

Q: What is your vision of agriculture?

A: I think we will start to see some farms transition to the next generation with new levels of technology. The scale and number of farms will continue to change as profit levels adjust and new markets are developed with organic farming and pharmaceutical products such as hemp. As society changes its demands, agriculture will also change. Agriculture has been and will continue to be one of the largest economic drivers in our economy.

Q: What changes will drive agriculture’s future?

A: As farmers navigate the economic environment, some key driving forces for the future of agriculture will be technological advances to improve computer apps and new products within biotechnology. Farmers are always seeking ways to improve efficiency on their farms to save time and money, along with the industry continually creating new and improved agricultural products to help the farmer to grow a bigger and better crop each year.

Q: How will you be involved?

A: I was raised on a family farm, and therefore understand the hard work and dedication farmers have for their way of life. I will always be involved in agriculture as it runs deep in my roots. My current role as a financial officer puts me in a position to find ways to help local farmers finance their current operations and any changes, expansions, or upgrades in their future farming operations.

Q: What inspires young people to seek a career in agriculture/agribusiness?

A: I feel the changes and challenges of agriculture inspire young people to seek a career in agriculture along with the fact that it is one of our leading industries for available jobs at all varying levels of skills and education. Young people are also seeking careers in agriculture because they have grown up on a farm and want to stay connected to their roots.

About Amy: I grew up on a grain and livestock farm near Williamsfield, IL with my two older sisters and my parents, Ron and Debbie Newell. I was active in FFA and 4-H. After high school, I went to our local community college and completed my associate’s degree and then transferred to Illinois State University where I graduated in 2018 with a degree in ag business. My career with Compeer Financial began in May of 2018. When I’m not working, I like to play volleyball, shoot archery, spend time with my family, and travel.

 

Justis Willrett, 23, Malta
Grain Farmer & Cattle Feeder
at J. Willrett Farms

Q: What is your vision of agriculture?

A: In the future I see agriculture becoming a more challenging industry with a higher need for strategic management. Government regulations, consumer perspective and wants, and “engineered food” are all things that I can picture posing issues. I also picture growth for niche markets such as hemp production, and organic crops.

Q: What changes will drive agriculture’s future?

A: Being able to do more with less will continue to drive changes in agriculture I believe. We will need to be open to trying out new products, technology, and practices to continue increasing efficiency on the farm. We have a growing population to feed each year on a fixed, if not slightly decreasing, amount of land.

Q: How will you be involved?

A: I will be involved through continuing to farm, adapt to challenges that arise, and be innovative and open to new ideas on the farm.

Q: What inspires young people to seek a career in agriculture/agribusiness?

A: I believe the idea of being part of an industry that feeds the world inspires younger people to get involved in agriculture. It is a great industry with friendly and helpful company. Consumers will always need food which means it is an industry with great job security as well.

About Justis: I have been farming most of my young life – helping with crops and cattle – and being in 4-H and FFA. I went to Kansas State and studied agricultural economics and returned to the family farm in 2019. My parents are Jamie and Larisa Willrett. When I’m not farming I enjoy traveling and being outdoors.

 

Ian Anderson, 26, Waterman
Maintenance Engineer for Hormel Foods
& Farmhand at Anderson Farms

Q: What is your vision of agriculture?

A: My vision for the future of agriculture is increasing production without having to expand operations. With technology and machinery capabilities increasing every day, farmers can determine recipes for each individual acre of every field to maximize yield increase from year to year without expanding. In industry we can develop machines that can run faster and more efficiently increasing tonnages without increasing floor space or labor.

Q: What changes will drive agriculture’s future?

A: Technology will drive the future changes in agriculture. Farms will use the data they can acquire from their acreage to expand and adapt their operations. More farms will go from conventional farming to no-till, strip-till, or organic to fit their specific acreage and maximize profits. In industry, advances in technology will eliminate waste while allowing machines to run faster and longer to meet increasing customer demand.

Q: How will you be involved?

A: I will be involved from the beginning of the agriculture processes until the end. I will be able to positively affect agriculture from the production of the crops and swine my family produces on our farm, all the way through to the packaged bacon that leaves our Hormel facility in Rochelle. I will work to grow our animals and crops more efficiently while increasing the production of the end customer product(s) that leave our plant.

Q: What inspires young people to seek a career in agriculture/agribusiness?

A: Knowing a career in agriculture allows you to positively impact the world is what inspires young people to join the industry. Whether you are growing or helping to grow an agricultural product, marketing a product, or any of the other steps from farm to consumer; each day you are helping to feed or clothe the world.

About Ian: I am the son of Wesley and Susan Anderson. I grew up on our family grain and hog farm in Shabbona. I graduated from Iowa State University with a mechanical engineering degree in December 2016 and in January 2017 started as an associate maintenance engineer for Hormel at Rochelle Foods. In my free time I continue to help out on the family farm and enjoy fishing and anything involving sports.

 

Bronwyn Burgweger, 28, Kingston
Credit Manager at CHS Elburn

Q: What is your vision of agriculture?

A: My vision for the future of agriculture is an industry with unlimited potential. Potential that started with the first seed ever planted. Through innovation, experimentation and use of technologies agriculture will continue to sustain a growing population, create opportunities for economic growth, ensure a safe food supply and protect the environment for future generations.

Q: What changes will drive agriculture’s future?

A: There are many factors that will drive change in agriculture’s future. Drivers of change include trade deals, transportation systems, technologies, environmental policies, a growing population and an upcoming generation of tech-savvy farmers. Technology will continue to be an important driver of change. Future advancements in technologies will offer benefits and opportunities to sustain the success and growth of the agricultural industry.

Q: How will you be involved?

A: Having been raised on a family farm and involved in 4-H and FFA, I have grown up to appreciate agriculture. Although it is unlikely I will go back to the family farm full time, I will continue to be involved in agriculture. As an agribusiness career woman, I will involve myself by promoting innovations in products and service that are beneficial to the success of area farmers. I will also continue to educate students about the importance of agriculture.

Q: What inspires young people to seek a career in agriculture/agribusiness?

A: Agriculture is an industry offering a wide variety of career opportunities. Career opportunities that expand much further than the farm. What inspires young people to seek a career within agriculture is the vast opportunities available to them. The complexity of the industry provides career opportunities to individuals in many career fields. Agriculture is an industry that seeks diversity of thought and ideas that drive innovation and technological advancements.

About Bronwyn: I grew up on a grain farm in Kirkland. My parents are Henry and Pat Burgweger. I received a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from Colorado State University. I began working for CHS Elburn at the Sycamore office in August of 2018. When I’m not working I like to spend time with my girls, Presley (6) and Breklyn (2). When we are not running to practices, you can find us at the farm or in the shop with my fiancé. I also enjoy volunteering at the church and being a part of multiple boards.

 

Christian Thurwanger, 24, Sycamore
Ag Teacher at Sycamore High School

Q: What is your vision of agriculture?

A: The future of agriculture will continue to increase in importance as the growing world population is expected to jump at an alarming rate. This to me looks like a focus on a healthier and plentiful product. I think that livestock producers will need to focus on producing more product with less input, through proper selection of genetics and nutrition.

Q: What changes will drive agriculture’s future?

A: The change in the consumer’s needs/wants will drive the direction of agriculture in the future. As we see a more vocal consumer determining what they want in their product, the production will shift as well. The more focus that is put on the nutritional value of food, will also come into play. Products that are potentially higher in protein, vitamins and minerals and lower in fats could become the norm in food.

Q: How will you be involved?

A: As an educator I am presented with a unique opportunity to listen, understand and react to situations within the local community. I will personally be involved in the increased understanding of food production and consumer awareness by introducing students to practices seen in modern agriculture. In class we can discuss the current trends in consumer wants/needs while analyzing how our local producers can affect change and perception of modern agriculture.

Q: What inspires young people to seek a career in agriculture/agribusiness?

A: Agriculture is a diverse and malleable industry. This means that almost every job has some kind of tie to agriculture. The diversity allows everyone the opportunity to find something they’re interested in, while also keeping true to their agriculture roots. The malleability comes in the perspective that agriculture is one of the best industries to get your hands dirty.

About Christian: I have been involved in agriculture my whole life. I grew up raising and showing pigs, cattle and sheep. My parents are Andrea Thurwanger and Mark Thurwanger. I graduated from Western Illinois University in 2018 with a degree in agriculture education. Currently I am one of the agriculture teachers and FFA Advisors at Sycamore High School. In my free time I am developing my own market lamb herd to sell to local 4-H and FFA members.

 

Katie Arndt, 22, DeKalb
Management Trainee for Pipestone System

Q: What is your vision of agriculture?

A: I see people getting more innovative or creative with how they run their operations. This could be entering a new commodity, like organics, or implementing new technology.

Q:  What changes will drive agriculture’s future?

A: I think a workforce with a different background will be a big agent of change. With fewer farms for people to grow up on, there will be more people without an agricultural background entering the industry, and we need those people. As an industry, we need to be welcoming and inclusive to those individuals because we need new minds, with new ideas and they bring a new perspective to the table. Things would be boring if we were all the same anyway!

Q: How will you be involved?

A: My goal is to continue to encourage youth to consider agricultural careers because there are many people who wish they grew up on a farm, but didn’t or were not given the opportunities. I was given the opportunity to be involved in agriculture through 4-H, FFA and my family farm.

Q: What inspires young people to seek a career in agriculture/agribusiness?

A: My goal is to support the younger generation, entering or who show interest in agriculture-related fields, because I was lucky enough to have grown up on a farm and be involved in 4-H and FFA. But I know that so many people did not have those same opportunities. It can be very intimidating for people without a traditional agriculture background to enter this industry, so if I can provide more learning opportunities or make a transition into an agricultural career smoother, I want to be a part of that.  

About Katie: I grew up on a grain and hog farm in Malta. My parents are Ed and Darla Arndt. I graduated from Iowa State University in 2019 with a degree in animal science and began working for Pipestone at local hog farms. I am involved with the DeKalb County Farm Bureau Young Leaders and I serve on the Pork Producers Board of Directors. For fun, I am learning how to golf.


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