Should Your Agribusiness Go After Millennial Farmers?

Posted by Timothy Wier On March 27, 2019

Should Your Agribusiness Go After Millennial Farmers?

As the ag industry evolves and changes, your customer is going to change over time. New farmers are going to take over the operations that their families have been managing for generations.

Because of this, there's some talk about the Millennial farmer. Even outside of ag, the Millennial generation is a sought-after demographic. Given that they are the up-and-coming generation, it makes sense that agribusinesses would be interested in cornering this market.

(Note: This article is part of the "Marketing to Farmers" series. Click here to  read the free guide.)

But as we say at Farm Market iD, trust your instinct only in the absence of data. Instead of assuming that Millennials make up a valuable market for ag, let’s actually examine the question: should we be focused on the Millennial farmer?

With Farm Market iD data at our disposal, we can examine the market and come up with a fact-based answer. Here’s an original research piece showing the impact of Millennials on the agriculture market in an attempt to answer that question.

Millennials make up the smallest percentage of growers (excl. GenZ)

With all the talk about the aging farmer and the issue of whether young people will be taking over America’s farms, it’s important for you to understand who’s running these farms in the here and now. Sure, it may be helpful to do some long-term planning, but your immediate need is to generate business this year.

So who is farming in America right now? Let's put it this way: agriculture is a "booming" market, since Baby Boomers own and operate the majority of farmers. On the other hand, Millennials are a small group compared to the overall market.

By small, we mean less than five percent.

Take a look at the breakdown showing the percentage of growers by generation*:

Generation Percentage
Baby Boomers (55 to 73) 50.9%
Silent Generation (74 and older) 24.6%
Generation X (39 to 54) 19.9%
Millennials (24 to 38) 4.5%
GenZ (23 and younger) 0.1%

Here is that data displayed visually:

Growers by Generation - Source: Farm Market iD

 Source: Farm Market iD

You can see that three-quarters of all growers are ages 55 and older.  Plus, the Silent Generation – ages 74 and older – makes up a larger percentage of the market than GenX and Millennials combined.

When we go from a high-level view into a more specific market, we see similar results. Here’s what happens when we drill down into Corn/Soy growers:

Corn/Soy Growers by Generation - Source: Farm Market iD

Source: Farm Market iD

The numbers don’t shift much, but the little shifts are worth noting:

  • Baby Boomers remain the majority
  • The Silent Generation makes up a smaller share of the market by 1.5%
  • Generation X and Millennials absorb the remaining share by 1.0% and 0.3%, respectively

Let’s see what happens when we drill down even further and look at Corn/Soy growers in seven states with over 10 million planted acres of Corn and/or Soy:

Corn/Soy Growers by Generation in Key States - Source: Farm Market iD

Source: Farm Market iD

Whether we look at the overall market, a high-value crop demographic or geographic area with high acreage, the results are the same: Millennials make up a sliver of the market compared to older generations.

What does this mean for you? It confirms what we all know – that the ag market is an older market. That means that the Millennial demographic is likely not where you’re going to find the most opportunity.

The shift to younger growers is inevitable; but it hasn’t happened yet. Right now, as you’re planning your marketing and sales strategy for the rest of the year, it’s best to focus on the opportunity in the older market. Build those relationships with the current stakeholders, and use those relationships – combined with data that updates year after year – to know when the shift happens and who’s going to take over those operations when it does.

Reaching Your Addressable Market: Channel Counts for Each Generation

Ultimately, this high-level analysis is only helpful if you can execute against it. So while we start with looking at aggregate data, eventually you’ll have to push this down from strategy to marketing and sales.

Each generation is going to respond to different marketing messages and will be present on different marketing channels. Here’s some data on the coverage from four marketing and sales channels – mailing address, landline, mobile phones and email (which can be used for both email marketing and social media):

Channel Coverage by Age - Source: Farm Market iD

Source: Farm Market iD

 

Addresses are covered at nearly 100% regardless of age. But looking at the trends for the other three channels yields interesting results:

  1. Landline matches increase overall with growers' age – although there’s an interesting uptick of landlines among young Millennials and GenZ
  2. Mobile phone matches decrease as growers' age increases
  3. The highest email address coverage comes from older Generation X and younger Baby Boomer farmers

Combining these insights with the ones from the previous section, here are some examples of how you can apply these data to your marketing and sales decisions:

  • If you’re calling on an older farmer, call the landline. If you’re calling on a younger farmer, call the mobile phone.
  • Email marketing will connect you with 50% of growers regardless of age and 60% of Baby Boomers, Generation X and most Millennials – so if you aren’t already engaging in email marketing, you should get started.
  • If you want a channel that’s going to have an equal chance of reaching everyone, direct mail is still the way to go.

Not only do Millennials not dominate the market overall, but they really don’t dominate any one particular marketing channel. So while it’s good to know the demographics of who you’re going after, launching an email or social media campaign targeted to Millennials won’t necessarily get you better results than one targeted to Baby Boomers.

The bottom line here: while you shouldn’t completely ignore the Millennial farmer, neither should you put an undue focus on them. This industry mostly consists of older farmers and while we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds, today your best shot at increasing revenue is to go after older farmers and earn their business – with the long-term goal of staying in business with them when the farm changes hands.

Did you know that this analysis is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's possible with ag data? To go further, including finding your market share and wallet share, take a look at our data-powered BI platform: MarketView.

 

FMiD_MarketView V4

 

* The data used in this article is a sample of the data contained in the overall Farm Market iD database. Specific numbers, when used, may vary from what is displayed in the applications themselves.

 

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