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Bright opportunity for the millennial generation

Ryan Goodman Published on 24 May 2012
Ryan Goodman

My generation is what some call “Millennials.”

We are a generation that is reliant upon technology and instant communication. We sometimes ask too many questions and can be exceedingly passionate in our interests and endeavors.

For many like me, that passion is the future of agriculture.

As a kid growing up in Arkansas, my father managed a commercial cow-calf operation. I thought ranching was how life was supposed to be. We fed cattle every day of the year and watched over calving heifers when a rare snowfall came.

Ranching was a way of life and I did not know any different. It was not until I left for college when I realized how passionate I was about raising cattle. College was fun, there was much to learn when it came to the particulars of biology and forage production, but it was not feeding cows.

Ryan Goodman rides with cattle in the Big Horn Mountains

Today I still find myself in school, only this time I am pursuing a higher degree.

I have made my stops along the way, working on ranches in Wyoming and Oklahoma, and feedyards in the Texas Panhandle. One thing I have learned is there is a bright future in the cattle business.

We often hear debate over the sustainability or longevity of modern agriculture. Do we have an expiration date? I do not believe so.

Sustainability is what cattle ranching must be. Look at the number of century-old farms across the country – family operations passed from one generation to another for more than 100 years. If that is not sustainability, I am not sure what is.

Today there is a world of harsh competition for agriculture. Tennessee alone loses 1,000 farms each year. Much of that loss is due to increased land competition, urban expansion and higher input prices.

The average farmer today is nearing 60 years old. Does this mean a future in the cattle business looks grim? Not quite. This just means my generation will have to be more competitive in managing our farms.

A college education has much to offer a person like myself. I grew up towing show calves around and tagging calves in front of the snorting Braford cow, but I still have more to learn about the business end of ranching.

In the current “electronic age,” cattle feeders book commodities months in advance, abrasive government regulations change every day and business competition is growing on an international front. All of this is to say, I should have studied for a degree in economics.

I look forward to a career in the beef cattle business. There is a bright future out there. With all of the schoolhouse education my generation may receive, we can embrace our technology and learn efficiency tools with the best.

However, with all of this, it is important to remember one thing – learn from our elders. They are the ones who established these century-old farms and have experienced so much. Through their blood, sweat and tears, we can learn.  end_mark

Ryan Goodman comes from an Arkansas cattle ranching family and has spent the last several years learning about production systems across the country. A graduate of Oklahoma State, Ryan recently moved to Tennessee to begin work on a master’s degree.

He works continuously to share his story of ranch life through community outreach and social media, all while encouraging others in agriculture to do the same. Click here to see Ryan’s daily blog updates.


TOP: Ryan Goodman has spent recent years at a few cattle operations.

BOTTOM: Ryan Goodman rides with cattle at the Hyatt Ranch in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Photos courtesy of Ryan Goodman.