Sept. 21 2023 10:28 AM

We must be willing to accept new perspectives to allow ourselves to keep progressing.

In my 27 years — don’t laugh at my naivety — I have concluded that generations always complain about the next generation. For example, baby boomers complained about Generation X, Generation X complains about millennials, millennials complain about Generation Z, and eventually, Generation Z will complain about Generation Alpha. Every generation complains about the generations before and after them. It’s common and human to blame someone else for your own mistakes or the actions around you.

In the farming world, you might have three generations on the farm, or sometimes more and sometimes less. In my case, I’m a millennial, my dad is Generation X, and my grandfather is the silent generation. All three of us were born in completely different generations, and each of us has a completely different outlook on life. My grandfather was born during a time of no technology. He was taught that hard work and true grit were the only ways to get anything done. Those accomplishments are admired and, clearly, the perseverance worked.

Dad grew up without technology and learned much the same way Granddad did. The only way to get a job done was through hard work and long hours. As he grew up, technology was introduced, but not many folks were receptive to it— especially not my grandfather’s generation. Slowly, Dad would implement some of the technology, but it was a fight with Grandad constantly due to the distrust of a computer’s ability over that of true grit and hard work.

I grew up with technology. Google came out when I was four, and I’ve grown up using computers for school papers, posters, presentations, spreadsheets, and so on and so forth. Information has always been a click away for me where it wasn’t so much for the others. I remember coming home from college and being told, “Just because you went to college doesn’t mean you can change anything.” What no one realized is that I had no intention of doing so. I wanted to come home, farm, and over time, find ways to make life a little easier on all of us.

However, I was classified as “that generation.” I was “that generation” that wanted change now because, with all the technological advancements, my attention span was non-existent — or so they thought. I was “that generation” that never went outside, always played video games, and didn’t know what hard work was nor did I contribute to hardworking American culture. I was classified based off stereotypes. I’m a millennial, and although we have access to more information than most, I was considered dumb, lazy, and unimportant.

The truth was that I was and am far from those stereotypes. Most of my fellow peers are as well. We work hard with everything we do, but we do it differently than the generations before us because we have the capabilities and knowledge of a different world. What most folks don’t see is that the world we live in today is not the world our parents and grandparents grew up in. Ours has a different view on how to do things. We work with a different mindset, and we take pride in making adjustments to do a job efficiently.

As the next generation enters the world, it is imperative for us to find ways to make connections. The old way isn’t always as eye catching for the next generation as it was for our generation or past. We have to find the connection and ways to allow them to have suggestions while learning how to do things their way. It’ll be different than our way, and no one’s way is any worse or better than the others. It might be challenging to allow the next generation to make decisions and have ideas as most of us still believe in, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but the truth is, the next generation is the future.

Generations argue and complain about each other. It’s human nature to think that your way is the best way, and no one can out do you. That’s the way the world has always been, but it’s time to step back, accept the next generation, and find a way to keep farming albeit different than the way you did it. The world is ever evolving, and as farmers, we need to as well. Stay safe out there, folks.

Courtney Henderson

The author is a sixth-generation farmer and fifth-generation dairy producer in southwest Virginia, where she and her family own and operate a 145-head Holstein dairy. Courtney is involved in agriculture organizations throughout her community and is a graduate of Virginia Tech.