I just returned from the very informative AgriFuture Conference that was held in Laramie. It was a great time of gathering information from farmers, ranchers, ag students and government people.
One of the keynote speakers was Dr. Lowell Catlett, a Regents Professor in Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business and Extension Economics and the Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University. As a futurist, he provided an insightful look at the “new culture” of agriculture. The emphasis was on World War II era consumer vs. the baby boomer consumer and how entrepreneurs should look at the “new customer”. The WWII customer buys standard beer brands; the new consumer will spend a little extra for craft beers. The WWII consumer will buy a part for a broken dryer; a baby boomer will buy a new dryer. What was a luxury to the WWII set is now considered standard for boomers. He emphasized that it’s not necessarily wrong, it’s just the way it is.
What can ag do to tweak their products so that they add new value to consumers? The demand for organic products is huge, from organic lotions and soaps to organic food products to organic wine and vodka. Organic pet food cannot be left out of this mix.
Service industries are also changing. For example, typical jobs for a landscape architect used to be the design of parks and playgrounds. The new customer is more interested in solar roofs, green walls and peace gardens for the holistic health sectors.
Exports are a market that cannot be ignored anymore, especially in the agriculture industry. As the middle class of developing countries continues to grow, they now have more disposable income to purchase better cuts of beef and pork. Foreign exports of US meat are growing every day.
The consumer trend toward agri-living is growing. In many urban areas across the country, cement is being replaced with grass and trees. A study showed that 85% of people that live on golf courses don’t actually play golf; they just enjoy living near the peaceful green space.
Dr. Catlett challenged the ag community to come up with consumer products that don’t necessarily fill a need. Think of something that people will buy just because they want it and because they can. He summed his presentation with a little history. Henry Ford once asked consumers how their lives could be made better. They responded, “with a faster horse”.