Elon Musk brought excitement back to the automobile industry and lured many brilliant minds to work at Tesla. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg both became icons of the technology world and drew thousands of people to Silicon Valley. Jason Bourne, while admittedly just Matt Damon wearing an old fisherman’s sweater, sure got young men interested in hand-to-hand combat and spycraft. Even though all these people have faults, they undoubtedly got people excited about their respective areas of expertise.
Surely one of the world’s oldest industries, a job so important it keeps the 7.8 billion people on our planet alive, has a heroic icon so glamorous and visionary that all the citizens of Earth know their name—there simply MUST be a Richard Branson of farming?
Unfortunately, there is not.
While agriculture is the backbone of Saskatchewan’s economy and a significant growth area for Canada and the world, it just doesn’t have an iconic hero getting people excited about the profession. Sure, there’s Kevin Costner with his corn in Field of Dreams, and the famous flying cow from Twister, but they’re not really on par with industry-shaping titans like Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, or Jeff Bezos. While farming doesn’t yet have its Bill Gates, that doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting in the meantime—and it’s only going to get more interesting in 2020.
Agriculture needs an image makeover because despite being a quickly changing, technology-based sector, too many people still view it as a field where nothing new ever happens.
Farmers drive around in massive machines, work with advanced chemicals, tinker with sophisticated technology, and constantly fight to keep their businesses alive as weather problems, trade disputes, and government policies threaten to put them out of business. This sounds like the stuff Hollywood movies are made of, yet there aren’t any movies about them—although I suppose Russell Crowe’s character in Gladiator did own a farm in Spain. Agriculture clearly needs a rebranding campaign to captivate people about the future of the industry.
To be fair, there are plenty of people already working hard to remind people that farming is exciting.
The folks at RealAg Radio and The Western Producer are doing it every week. There are numerous young farmers with popular YouTube channels, and various business startup incubators are encouraging people to solve ag-related problems with technology. Even politicians are climbing onto the “vast economic potential of agriculture” messaging bandwagon.
While tractors and combines haven’t yet had their moments of fame like the fighter jets in Top Gun, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. To help accelerate the process however, we need to keep talking about farming as the next frontier of the technology revolution. Just a decade ago, it wasn’t glamourous to work for an automotive company anymore, but then Elon Musk used Tesla to convince people there was still plenty of exciting history left to be written in the world of cars and trucks—farming has that same untapped potential.
If we can frame agriculture as the most important global industry, filled with revolutionary new technologies, tough problems to solve, and money to be made, that will help dispel some of the misconceptions about farming being a job stuck in the 1920s. While giving agriculture a modern rebrand won’t guarantee that young people will flock to it, we at least need to make sure they’re giving it fair consideration when deciding their futures.
And if Daniel Craig happens to be driving a Cybertractor through the streets of St. Petersburg in the next Bond movie, that probably wouldn’t hurt either.