Agricultural Leaders Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Implications The farmers in this study chose careers as farmers because family was their greatest influence. Farming embraces a clan culture in which leaders are influenced by family (Ballaro & Washington, 2016). Sharing the experience of farming with their families brings these farmers closer together. Love for family and working the land were also reasons for these young farmers to pursue careers in farming. Even with the passion and interest of those interviewed, farming as a career choice is on the decline (Harvie, 2017; FFA, 2018a; Prager et al., 2018). Current policy provides little support for older farmers while discrimination toward younger farmers occurs due to a lack of land ownership (Cush & Macken-Walsh, 2016). Furthermore, the findings from this study provide a greater understanding of the career choice of farming among those in the new farmer movement who are more open to new technology that will increase profits and reduce expenses.  Schwab (2016) posits that the nation stands on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way one lives, works, and relates to one another. Farmers in this study understand that technology will change the future of farming. We do not know just how the technological revolution will unfold, but one point is clear; the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders and leaders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors, to academia and civil society (Schwab, 2016).  The fourth industrial revolution is creating new experiences by attempting to bridge technology, information, and communication together (Gabriel & Pessl, 2016). With the implementation of these systems, there is a growing importance of the perspective of social and environmental sustainability (Gabriel & Pessl, 2016). The findings from the emergent themes and the analysis of the literature for this study support the need for the development and implementation of leadership strategies to support how farming technology affects young farmers and their decision to pursue farming careers. Leadership strategies that bring together experts in farming technology, current farmers (young and old), agricultural college graduates, agri-science, and the government will result in successful cooperation and a greater understanding and sustainability in future farming. The farmers in Minnesota provided evidence in their interview responses as to why they pursued careers in farming, and as young farming leaders, they are more open to new technology than their older counterparts. 
The purpose of this qualitative case study was to develop an understanding of how leaders of the fourth industrial revolution are affecting farming technology and to explain how technology is affecting young farmers and their decision to pursue farming careers. Four themes emerged from the data analysis of the semi-structured interviews with 13 Minnesota farmers: (a) work perception, (b) emotions surrounding career choice, (c) leadership role and influence of others, and (d) thoughts about career choice. The findings from this study provide a greater understanding of the leadership direction and career choice among those in the new farmer movement who are more open to technology for increasing profits and reducing expenses. With many challenges facing U.S. farming leaders, strategic planning using creative, forward thinking in the form of technology may be the answer for energizing and transforming the future of farming. 
 Key words: agricultural leaders, digital farming, farm industry leaders, farming technology, fourth industrial revolution, young farmers 
This publication has been peer reviewed.
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Julie M. Ballaro and David P. Moriarty
Year of Publication: 
Journal, Book, Magazine or Other Publication Title: 
International Leadership Journal
Volume 11,
Issue 3
Fall 2019
Publication Language: