A great new opportunity awaits food and ag. It’s the chance to engage Generation Z (those ages 7 to 22). And it’s not optional: failing to do so will result in the alienation of one quarter of the U.S. population. Yes, Gen Z accounts for 24.3 percent, according to the U.S. Census.
To be honest, I’m jazzed about it. While older generations tend to be critical or dismissive of younger generations, that would be a mistake. Research tells us Gen Z is a conscientious group interested in being engaged and knowing that what they buy, support and endorse is worthy. As a mother of several Gen Z girls, I see it in their questions and decisions. They are probing, and you better be forthcoming because this generation knows how to find information.
They demand transparency. According to Common Sense Media, they spend six to nine hours a day online. That means it will be more important than ever to have a digital presence and open the barn doors, as they say. Be proud of your values, share them, and live by them. Anyone who thinks it’s okay to tell only part of the story – any story – will quickly learn that a lack of full disclosure is a deal-breaker. The same goes for a failure to live up to your promises in practice. Gen Z ranks ethical business and manufacturing as one of the top factors when making purchasing decisions.
This is an opportunity for farmers and ranchers, veterinarians and their suppliers to make a real connection. In fact, agriculture has many advantages over other sectors because few things beat walking the rows of healthy crops and seeing animals well cared for. All that’s required is an invitation. Agriculture has a great story to tell and the commitment to continuous improvement will resonate with this conscientious group. Gen Z is waiting to be engaged, hungry for a connection and eager to be heard and valued.
The rise in Agri-tourism is a good thing. Make that connection now. Give them a reason to believe. Answer their questions in a forthcoming manner and invite their feedback. I’ll go first.
Gen Z readers, am I right? Have I described you accurately? I realize no generation can be painted with one broad brush, but understanding some general commonalities is important. So, challenge me if I missed the mark. I welcome a dialogue.
Oh, and I have a challenge for you. As you are exposed to mixed messages about agriculture, before you pass judgment, spend a few of those six to nine hours a day online making sure you have the full story. Don’t rely on single sources – you’re too smart for that. Make sure at least one of your sources is someone who actually produces food, not just those who’ve made a living out of criticizing agriculture.
One more challenge: if you’ve never been on a farm, find one that offers tours and go explore. If there are none in your area, drop me a message and I’ll do my best to help you connect. You are the generation of purpose-driven purchasing and good for you. Guess what? If you do your homework, you’re going to find agriculture is filled with purpose-driven producers.