Everybody knows that the current champion of business, financial industry, is screwed. In fact, it has been broken for a long time, yet reality has finally started to show its true face in the last decade. The world always needs finance for sure, but clearly it has stopped being the hope for a better future.
Since the collapse in 1971 of the old fixed exchange rate system of Bretton Woods, the world has become used to the “trilemma” of international finance: the impossibility of having free capital flows, fixed exchange rates and an independent monetary policy all at the same time. Most countries have plumped for control over their own monetary policy and a floating exchange rate.
On the other hand, the threat to our most basic needs, food and water, has become imminent than ever. The food we eat has been replaced by engineered products, the water we drink is facing serious shortage, and the source of all life form, the ocean, has been contaminated by nuclear radiation and plastic pellets.
A one-two punch of financial collapse and food crisis is knocking us down. But as mathematics goes, two negatives makes a positive. The legendary investor Jim Rogers says the future belongs to agriculture: stop becoming a bean-counter, start becoming a bean-grower.
He backed this statement up in 2010 when speaking at Oxford University where he urged students to alter career plans for Wall Street and the City of London and study agriculture and mining instead. He was quoted as telling them that “The power is shifting again from the financial centres to the producers of real goods. The place to be is in commodities, raw materials, natural resources”. Jim Rogers insists that it will be farmers that are driving Lamborghinis to work in the future and not the investment bankers.
Granted, he isn’t endorsing ecology. He is talking purely from the point of economic gain, and that’s why it is notable. In general, opportunities arise in areas where the demand is high (healthy organic food for the mass) but the supply is low (who wanted to become a farmer in our generations?). Agriculture can be not just good for us, it can also be lucrative.
Therefore, a growing number of people have been converting into agriculture business isn’t a surprising news. Reinventing agriculture is not only required right now, but also makes a lot of sense in the long-term. Most of all, it offsets one of the biggest risks we hold for our future: how to feed ourselves when we get old. Agriculture is no more just an escape route for the stressed modern soul. It is a path to a better future.
In the US, there are now 456,000 “beginning farmers”, defined by the government as those with less than a decade’s experience.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, they are less likely than established farmers to receive government subsidies, and more likely to be college educated and have jobs off the farm.
They also earn less from farming, and work smaller farms – though they aren’t necessarily younger than their more established peers.
What I like about this movement is that intelligent people who have spent their entire life on making smart choices are joining agriculture. They might be idealistic, but more than that, they are realistic. If they choose to be a farmer AFTER becoming a banker, executive, or researcher, it signals that they see an open, not an end.
In order for an movement to become mainstream, an ideal or a purpose isn’t enough. We need incentives. While they do not have to be monetary compensations, they do need to offer real benefits, such as…food 🙂
I believe this decade will be marked in the future as the turning point for us to get “real.” While I do not believe in people rushing into agriculture to drive a Lamborghini (exotic car doesn’t lure us any more), I do believe farmers will be considered “sexy.” That’s good enough.