The beginning of the 21st century is marked by the watershed moment when humanity seriously considered its impact on the planet. People today are concerned about the future of our resources and they expect companies and brands to share their values and help make a difference. This means the public has more and more questions for the agriculture industry and food producers. Additionally, Millennials, the world’s largest demographic, are the most vocal generation and they’re entering the agricultural workforce with different expectations for their work lives. They are highly motivated by the looming challenge of feeding 9 billion people.

This powerful convergence of trends has many of our agricultural and food production clients rethinking their communication plans and assessing their messaging strategies. To help our clients do this mindfully, Colle+McVoy fielded its second custom research project into the experiences and attitudes of Millennials working in agriculture today, focusing specifically on the topic of sustainability. Three key findings emerged that can help marketers best communicate to this powerful demographic.

Millennials experience sustainability locally, emotionally and collaboratively.

Our research revealed three ways to connect with Millennials in agriculture, specifically concerning how they experience sustainability today:

1. To Millennials, sustainability is a local subject first. Sweeping policy creates more chaos than positive change. The actions we take, initiatives we support and stories we tell shouldn't be sweeping either. To understand the challenges your audience is facing, dive deep into regional and local needs.

2. Sustainability is an emotional subject. Whether Millennials are passionately explaining what’s already happening or trying to rally the troops around what is yet to be done, they’re emotionally invested. They are energized by the challenge to sustainably feed 9 billion people, and have a hard time relating to people and companies who aren’t.

3. Sustainability takes a collaborative effort. Millennials know they can’t do it alone and it is going to take the energy of everyone involved in ag and food production to accomplish the ambitious goals they’ve set. Every producer, co-op, agronomist, nutritionist, tech company, equipment manufacturer and processor has a part to play in shaping the future. And they want to work on it together.

Millennials in agriculture define sustainability differently than previous generations.

Millennials’ interest in sustainability is holistic and considerate. Where past generations prioritized the financial viability of agriculture over everything else, Millennials understand the interconnectedness of and all the factors needed to balance environmental, economic and social sustainability. They are ambitious realists driven to accomplish great things and they consider the long-term impact of their actions more than any other generation. They want to work with companies who are also thinking long term and have a clear vision for where they’re headed.

Millennials want everyone in the industry to rise to the challenge of engaging and educating the public about food production.

The public’s interest in sustainability and food production has made an impact on Millennials working in agriculture today. In today’s connected world, there’s no such thing as a vacuum – people look at the agriculture industry and have a lot of questions about where their food comes from. Millennials in agriculture are begging everyone in the industry to join the effort to educate and engage consumers. Public interest in food production is not going to wane, and Millennials see no benefit in keeping those seeking information at arm’s length.

Successful marketers need to view sustainability as Millennials in agriculture do– an opportunity to unite the industry and a place to tell their stories and share their ambitious plans for the future. So much good is already happening and the momentum is ours to build upon. The best way to do this is by telling sustainability stories to the world outside of food production. Millennials in agriculture want companies and brands to share their passions and to inspire others by feeding the world in a way that preserves resources and helps communities thrive. Not just today, but forever.