Did you know that by 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities?
I recently learned this at the Growing Food for Growing Cities event hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which brought together people from across the global food system. This demographic change will create a significant demand on world’s food systems. One concern, particularly in the United States, but increasingly around the world, is the rate at which farmers are retiring and not being replaced by younger generations. Of course farmers play a major role in this, but we as health and wellness professionals can, too.
According to Chris Policinski, President and CEO of Land O’ Lakes, who spoke at the event, the agricultural community has overlooked the opportunity, to some degree, to communicate just how innovative, entrepreneurial and important farming is to the future. Instead, he said, conversations about food and agriculture are superficial, and don’t convey how intricately connected they are to all aspects of a vibrant society.
Policinski noted, in order to solve this problem we need to show how agriculture is a grand community with a noble purpose that is technology driven and entrepreneurial. We need to show younger generations that their talents and effort will be needed to address the challenges of feeding the next generation, just as our current farmers successfully tackled the challenges of feeding us today.
According to a Land O’ Lakes survey of college graduates, only 3 percent are interested in pursuing a career in agriculture. However, more than 20 percent are interested in careers in health care and technology. What most don’t realize is that these interests overlap heavily. A career in agriculture can also be a career in both health and wellness and technology.
Policinski’s vision of the future is one in which farming is a broadly appealing career for young professionals, and Land O’ Lakes is doing its part to make that a reality. For example, it provides yearlong internships with a capstone project of telling Land O’ Lakes how they would solve the challenge of growing enough food sustainably.
We can all play a role, too. The future of agriculture can be bright depending on what we do and who we work with to ensure deeper conversations about food and farming happen. After all, farming serves as a hub of innovation, as a service and commitment to social good and as a worthwhile and purpose-driven career. Spreading that perspective will be a big step toward building the food systems the world needs.