Old, young must help to improve farming


How do we judge the value of “local ownership” in creating and implementing solutions to productivity, quality, and transportation challenges? Farmers, gardeners, ranchers, and fishermen represent the future of Kenya’s economic engine; the backbone of the workforce.

And young people represent a majority of the country’s emerging intellectual capital, the unbound energy and the moral framework for stimulating a “back to the land” movement.

They could spur the wise development of land for production, help cultivate more efficiently by using smarter technology, ranch more holistically by integrating university-based knowledge with innovative thinking to produce higher quality farm outputs.

Modern economic theory named land, labour and capital as the three guiding principle inputs to business formations that create new economic value. And now in the 21st century, we have added technology.

I have added yet a fifth element— the intellect; the creative brain. This is the emotional commitment to make an impact on society; the will to not only survive but to thrive, the essence of innovation and invention.

Young agripreneurs embrace new ideas and thrill at the challenge of blending technology with production; they grasp the “seven p’s of marketing” right off and employ all channels of communication to gain market share.

In the US, we have a group called Future Farmers of America. I grew up on a dairy farm in rural New York State about an hour’s drive north of New York City.


Back in those days, cows were grazed openly, milked the old way and the barn was an exciting, friendly, clean place to hang out. I remember the guys on tractors cutting and baling the hay for fodder, and I remember them filling the lofts with the bales.

I remember the cob cribs for the cow’s corn riddled with small field mice and barn rats. I learned to shoot a gun on the farm; my Dad and my older brother taught me. I learned how to build a shelter in the forest and make friends with animals.

I can remember waiting for the bus in the morning and being surrounded by birds and animals of all kinds. But I never became a farmer nor wanted to be a farmer. But I did want to tell their stories.

I am advocating for agriculture and technology students to work on farms (even virtually) as a way to connect with a viable and rewarding future while earning credit toward their practicum. Young people have the energy, the passion, and the intellect to recognise opportunities quickly and share through social media in seconds.

On the other hand, local farmers have the wisdom to recognise problems and to offer sound and experienced-based suggestions about finding solutions. There is a yawning gap between the experienced and the energised that needs to be addressed immediately.

Linking volunteer farmers with student and graduate business extension agents will create new pathways for the market economy to work more smoothly, for new ideas to generate results more quickly, and for local policy makers and smallholder farmers to engage more actively in addressing local challenges together.

Business practices can be judged by their ability to help users sustainably perform at higher returns, at lower investment costs while minimising potential negative consequences. Then replicate. Educated people have access to current information and smarter technologies. We need to recognise the contributions of subsistence farmers by transferring to them smarter ways of farming.

There’s always a reason to return to the basics. Kenyan farmers are ready to change and adapt their methods as long as they are exposed to new technologies and practices.