What it means to be a farmer in the 21st century?
Justus Walker is an American. What is very important to note that is the fact that he is a farmer, who happens to live and farm in the Siberian Russia, one of the last places on earth to imagine farming.
Had he been a farmer alone, thousands of people (including I) might not have heard about him.
In his small farm, he produces dairy products. But, other times, he is a preacher, vlogger with thousands of followers. His podcasts are watched by people from all over the world.
Without taking the meaning out of context, irrespective of nationalism, I think there are some common ingredients that may be necessary for a farmer in the 21st century and of course, I believe that this is how farming could be sustainably practised.
What are the ingredients of a 21st century farmer?
1. Versatile farmer: A farmer is not just dependent on farming for his living. Multiple talents combined with opportunities to utilize them remotely to a global audience support the farmer with additional income. This passion to follow an intellectual pursuit of his choice productively allows him to utilize the time, that is not spent on farming activities. I guess farming is a creative catalyst to make one a writer.
2. Small is beautiful: In a decentralized and technology enabled economy, scale of economy will no more be a determining factor for production. Consolidation of farming as an industrial activity that happened in the middle of the last century will disintegrate leading to small farms that are productive and sustainable. If you divide by the global farming land by the total population gives a conclusion that an acre will easily support 4 persons for food only. It does not mean a standard of living from socio-economic perspective. Hence, small farms that have the flexibility to do multi-cropping will enable the 21st century farmer to regain the forgotten practices.
3. All-under-control: With technology to closely monitor soil health, water availability and ability to take corrective actions proactively, the farmer behaves like a swift CEO to manage the risks and turn them into advantages.
4. Farming guru: The farmer realizes that farming is not just an economic activity, but more an enjoyable activity that nourishes the body, brain and the soul, the practice of which is itself meditation, prayer and religion.
Farming has evolved from laborious, manual and less scientific operations to precision, technology enabled operations, mediated by agri-tech start-ups. In the latter, the farmer acts as the guardian of the hardware, even as he is dependent upon the start-up for the data-driven advisory of crop management. This will change to ownership of intelligence with the farmer.
Who could become the farmer of this 21st century?
People in the creative industry, who could pursue their work remotely on a project mode. Right now, some professionals give up their established career to pursue farming as a calling. I guess they could blend the two.
What are the drivers?
Freelance work, remote work, fewer work-hours per week, a trend to move away from cities, etc.
Everything completes a circle. The reverse trend from industrial farming to individual farming could set farming on a sustainable path.