Future shouldn’t come as a surprise


Adapt. Flex, Experience. Create. Focus. Partner. Shift. Imagine. Start. Enjoy.
These are futurist Jim Carroll’s 10 “great words for 2006,” and they’re a good fit for January’s new beginnings.
This time of year, you see top 10 trends and outlooks and forecasts. Here’s my own take.
n Learn to be human. This should be a no-brainer, but if you venture outside your cocoon, you’ll discover it’s not.
The World Future Society says “hyper-human” skills will set you apart: caring, judgment, intuition, ethics, inspiration, friendliness and imagination.
Market researcher Jane Buckingham says adults might be surprised to learn that young people are trying to do the right thing, but are confused. “They don’t have a lot of guidance as to how to behave, what’s moral, what’s right and what’s not right,” she recently told a Wall Street Journal reporter.
Relearn the Golden Rule; rediscover common sense; rethink your own conduct.
n Bridge the great divide. Those young people aren’t all dolts, deadbeats and do-nothings, and neither are all those balding boomers.
How will older workers reshape your farm’s workforce or management? How will that next generation?
I’m not just talking about grandpa who will never retire, but there’s a growing army of older workers who are still productive. And you know what? They tend to be early risers. A great labor pool for an early morning shift.
We’re also on the edge of a “generational transformation,” as futurist Carroll puts it. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but there is a workplace (and farming) difference between the boomers and the 20- and 30-somethings.
The younger generation isn’t content to work or farm the same way as their parents. They “want a life.” Changing jobs isn’t a bad thing. They want to make an impact, but they’re impatient and want to make it now.
Don’t brush them off, though. Change, a rapid pace and new technology don’t scare these individuals. They’re techno-savvy and will boost the rate at which ideas are accepted. Yep, that means they’ll push us, but who couldn’t use a little prodding now and then.
Rethink your farm labor needs, your mindset and your habits.
n Beyond food and fiber. If I was a card-carrying, checkoff-paying producer of any commodity, I would push my board to fund research into new uses for my product. And push hard.
While exports help ag commodities, I would rather hitch my income to the cutting edge of a new energy source, a new fabric, a new medicine, a new widget, than rely on exports of a nondifferentiated commodity that could just as easily come from Brazil or New Zealand or Timbuktu.
Protect your domestic markets and then delve into new uses, variations, nano- and micro-anything. Somewhere there’s the next mini watermelon, the next orange cauliflower, the next biomass paint or plastic. What’s beyond plant-based edible vaccines? The research is out there, but let’s kick it up a notch. An Emeril-BAM! notch.
I’m just getting warmed up. My list also includes The Bigs Getting Bigger; Conservation and Renewables; New Food; Water Wars; Obesity; and Allies. Fodder for next week.
Adapt. Flex, Experience. Create. Focus. Partner. Shift. Imagine. Start. Enjoy.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at editor@farmanddairy.com.)

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