Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

Use Technology to Change How We Think about Farming with Millennial Farmer, Zach Johnson

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred platform of choice!

Zach Johnson, a fifth generation family farmer from West Central Minnesota, saw a gap in awareness about farming and agriculture. In 2016, he launched his idea of documenting and sharing his farming journey online. Today, his YouTube channel, “Millennial Farmer,” boasts over a million subscribers, where he showcases daily life on the family farm and promotes positive farming practices. I first discovered Zach’s work at a Google office, where his channel was recognized for its creative use of YouTube. Eight years later, his impact remains significant. We delved into his journey to understand how we can better advocate for farmers and grasp the importance of agriculture. Join us in celebrating Zach Johnson, “Millennial Farmer,” for his inspiring mission this Earth Day. 

Guest: ZACH JOHNSON

Millenial Farmer

Millennial Farmer, Zach Johnson, is a 5th generation family farmer from West Central Minnesota.
Zach actively promotes agriculture by sharing his day-to-day experiences on the family farm.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Title of the Episode:
Use Technology to Change How We Think about Farming with Millennial Farmer, Zach Johnson

2. Host:
Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox

3. Guest:
Zach Johnson, Millennial Farmer


4. Key Topics Covered:

  • The disconnect between consumers and the agricultural industry
  • The role of technology and social media in farming
  • The impact of agriculture on sustainability and Earth Day
  • The importance of connecting farms with consumers
  • Addressing misconceptions about farming

5. Highlights:

  • Zach Johnson’s journey from wanting to build race car engines to embracing farming as his calling
  • The evolution of agriculture and technology in the last eight years
  • The challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic for farmers

6. Quotes from Zach Johnson:

  • “We use genetically modified seed, but here’s why we choose to use those seeds.”
  • “Farming is kind of my calling the whole time.”
  • “There’s so much pride in everything that comes along with farming.”

7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

8. Contact Information for Zach Johnson:

Zach Johnson can be reached via LinkedIn, as well as other social media platforms.


9. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica Kang emphasizes the importance of understanding and supporting agriculture for a sustainable future and being open to new technologies while not getting distracted by the noise.

10. Episode Length and Release Date:
Episode Length: Approximately 52 minutes
Release Date: April 9, 2024


00:01

Monica H. Kang
Heres a quick question today. Do you know any farmers in person or even indirectly? Let me take a guess. Most of us will probably say no. And im not surprised because even for me, honestly, with all the people and friends I like to befriend and get to know, I realize that I dont really know a farmer or somebody who I would say I know directly who is working in farming and agriculture. And thats the very thing that todays guests noticed was a gap and an opportunity. Hi, youre listening to curious Monica by innovators box. Im your host, Monica King. And today im thrilled to have our guest, Zach Johnson, a fifth generation family farmer from west central Minnesota who is better known by his name, millennial farmer. 


00:57

Monica H. Kang
Today as a guest, I myself learned about his work because when I was visiting a Google DC office and was noticing, hey, who are influencers who have used YouTube and storytelling to amplify an important message? Well, when I looked up somebody from Minnesota, because that’s where my husband’s family’s from, we found out there’s a person called millennial farmer. And I was curious. I quickly realized that I dont know much about farming and have a lot of perhaps misconception and limited understanding. And thats the very reason why Zach wanted to do something about it today. Through his platform he started in 2016, he is actively promoting agriculture by sharing his day to day experiences on the family farm. 


01:46

Monica H. Kang
His vision is to build the connection between farms and consumers and to become a national voice for agriculture, provide farmer to farmer education, and facilitate a collaborative conversation between farmers and the public. So when I reached out to him to say, hey, let’s have a conversation because I want to celebrate Earth Day and better educate ourselves about farming and what it means to support for farmers, Zach said yes. Today, you might notice him from YouTube and social media because he is documenting adamantly and wanting to share his journey with his family. In 2016, when he started, it was a humble beginning where he was figuring out how to even use the YouTube channel. 


02:34

Monica H. Kang
Now, with an over a million subscribers, he says some truth are still the same in some patterns, such as I dont care about how the camera angle is, but I care more about documenting and making sure the message gets out. So with further ado, let’s meet Zach and dive into what it’s like to be a farmer and what we can do better to support our agriculture. 


02:58

Monica H. Kang
So very excited to have Zach here. Thank you so much for joining us. Well, Zach, but Zack is more known by his nickname, millennial Farmer. We’re really excited to dive into all of what you do as we continue to celebrate Earth Day. But first, I guess, first question, how in the world did you get to be where you are in leading and communicating about farming in a very different way? I’m curious, even with your nickname, how did you get to start to pin the name a millennial farmer? 


03:27

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Yeah. Well, thanks for having me. First off, the whole reason I started the millennial farmer online was because I was trying to figure out a way to relate to people about agriculture. I was seeing a lot of stuff online from people that would say things about agriculture that maybe had a little bit of truth to them, but it was obvious that a lot of them didn’t really fully understand exactly what it was that they were talking about and why we use some of the practices that we use. So I was seeing things specifically around, like genetically modified seed and drain tile and the way that we treat livestock and using herbicides and pesticides. 


04:07

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
I was seeing a lot of things around those subjects, and it is true, we use all of those things, but what I wanted to do was really bring to light, you know, why we use those management practices and show them that, yes, we use genetically modified seed, but here’s why we choose to use those seeds. And instead of trying to hide, because I wasn’t sure how to relay that information, I wanted to be very transparent about what it is exactly we’re doing and why we use those things. And so that was the entire idea behind everything that I started online, and it ended up just completely snowballing and taking off and building itself into this whole brand that is now on pretty much every. Every type of social media out there. And it’s just. It’s grown way beyond what we ever could have imagined. 


04:58

Monica H. Kang
Thank you so much for doing the work you do and also sharing the humble origin story, which is so key to remember how it all got started. But we want to go a little bit further back. Introduce us back to young Zach. Who was he? How was he like? Did he ever, like, what did he envision he wanted to do when he grow up one day? 


05:18

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
You know, like a lot of farm kids, I grew up on the farm. I was raised right here on the farm. I love everything that we do on the farm, and I love growing up here. I can’t imagine growing up anywhere else. This is where I love to be. It’s what I love to do. Of course, when I was younger, I certainly had ideas of doing other things as well. I really wanted to be a policeman for a long time. Eventually, I ended up going to school, actually, to learn how to build race car engines. So that was something that I always have enjoyed as well. That’s a real passion of mine, is competing and building race cars and engines and that sort of thing. I love to be hands on and I love to compete. 


06:04

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And I went to school for that, thinking that maybe someday I would own my own engine shop. And I soon realized that really where my heart was at was on the farm. And ultimately, what I wanted to do was to go back home and farm, and I didn’t want to let that opportunity pass me up. So I really felt like farming was kind of my calling the whole time. 


06:28

Monica H. Kang
Wow. No, thank you for sharing that. Bring us back to farming for our listeners a little bit more, because, unfortunately, most are not familiar. What does that even mean? What is it like? And you said as a, you know, somebody who grew up in the farm, it was very normal. But for most people who don’t have that experience, could you bring us back a little bit more what that is? What’s it like? And for somebody was like, what does a job? What do you actually do as a farmer? 


06:58

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Yeah. One of the big things that I take away from it is really being able to show my kids now, as somebody who is a father now and who is raising kids on the farm, it’s really neat to be able to show them the value of hard work and the meaning of life and the whole cycle from beginning to end, whether it be with livestock or with growing corn and soybeans like we do right now. It’s very important to me that those lessons are passed on, and I think that those are lessons that we probably take for granted a lot, but also lessons that I think farm kids get a lot more than anywhere else, right? Because we actually live it. We actually see it. 


07:40

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And so I grew up, and I have the memories of my dad getting up early in the morning and working very hard with the cows and the pigs and making sure that he took care of those livestock to keep them healthy and to keep them fed and to keep them warm and to give them everything that they needed, because that’s really our livelihood. And seeing how much he cared for the livestock when he was younger and how much work it took to take care of them and to take care of the machinery and to maintain the land in a way that you hope you’re doing things right and you’re maintaining it for. For generations to come. I think there’s just. There’s so much pride in everything that comes along with farming. 


08:22

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
That I think it’s such a fantastic way to really show your kids hands on while they’re growing up exactly what it means to be alive and to live life and to take pride in something and to watch the fruits of your labor really come to fruition. And as corny as that really does sound, that really is what we live out here in rural America, and we take so much pride in that. And we just love passing that onto our children. And I know certainly my parents did, and my wife and I are now working hard to pass that on to our children as well. 


08:58

Monica H. Kang
That’s so beautiful and such a powerful reminder that they are core skills and life skills that you’re carrying on. What are also perhaps misconceptions that you feel that this is your chance to debunk for folks who are like, if this is what you thought farming is or why this work is important, let me break it down for you. What would it be? 


09:17

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Well, I know, like, one of the big things I hear about is there’s probably two things. So there’s two ways to look at it. On one hand, I hear from people about how simplistic farming is, right? You put the seed in the ground, it gets a little bit of rain, and eventually it grows into a plant and you harvest it. You know, how difficult is that? So you get a little bit of that. On the other hand, I hear from people about, you know, how easy it must be to be a farmer today because tractors essentially drive themselves. And even though the idea of what we’re doing is very simple, there is so much management behind it today. The amount of management it takes is like any other business. 


09:58

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
We have to manage things from, essentially from ground zero, from, you know, buying and purchasing the seed and deciding what seed is going to best to where do we plant that seed? Where do we put it? How deep do we put it? What is the management that goes behind planting that seed to give it the best chance that you can possibly give it? And then from there, how do you nurture those plants throughout the growing season? What do you apply to them? How do you manage them? How exactly is the best way to harvest them then? How do you market them? How do you store the seeds and your crop that you’ve harvested to make sure that it’s safe? Make sure that it’s going to be good because you can’t let it rot. You can’t get bugs in it. 


10:42

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
You can’t get it let to get too warm. You know, you can’t. You can only hang on to it for so long. How do you market it in the best way possible, and then how do you get it to market and then working with all the different suppliers and the different people behind that to really put the whole system together? You know, a lot of people will talk about the machinery and the big fancy machinery and how easy it is to operate nowadays. On one hand, that is very true, but on the other hand, that is such a small part of what we do every day. It’s the visual part. It’s the thing that you see when you’re not a farmer yourself. Watching the tractors work is the thing that you see. 


11:21

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
It’s the visual that you have of the farmers, but it’s only one small piece of what we really do out here on the farm. I think that’s also a very important thing to remind people of and to show them that, hey, there’s a lot more to it than that. That tractor doesn’t come easy. Yes, it’s much easier to operate now than it used to be. But being able to get that tractor and maintain that tractor and somehow make the payments on that tractor is as difficult as it’s ever been. 


11:52

Monica H. Kang
So I’m curious, because there’s so much steps, as you have pointed out, what to do as a farmer, as a leader, and as a. In the family. But there’s also a lot to do when you’re a content creator and you’re doing both and all of it. And so I’m curious, when you bring us back to the memory of when you first decided to capture this, record it, put it online, was it just kind of a one time vision or you had this whole system planned out? Like, what were your thoughts and vision? Because it’s a lot of work. 


12:27

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Oh, it’s a ton of work. Yeah. And it’s definitely turned into more work than we thought that it could have when it first started. You know, it was two years at least, before I actually started it, before when I came up with the idea. So I sat on the idea for a couple of years, but I’m not, you know, I call myself the millennial farmer, and I have a large social media following, a social media brand now, I guess you could say, but I’m not real tech savvy. I have a somewhat fancy camera for filming my stuff, but if I bump the wrong button, I have to, like, go to factory, reset and start it all over again, because I don’t know. I don’t know anything about cameras. I’m not. And I’m honestly just not interested in it. 


13:18

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
I know the camera that works for me, I know the one that I do well with, and it goes to the basic settings and I use it, and I don’t get overly hung up on, you know, what to use for audio or changing lenses. I never change lenses. I just. It’s not something that particularly interests me. And I think that’s actually been a little bit of my strength because I’m not caught up in how do I get the perfect shot and the perfect audio and the perfect thumbnail? And that’s not a thought process of mine. I’m just documenting what I’m doing. And really, I guess, to get back to the question, that’s what kind of hung me up on it was, I didn’t even know how to start a YouTube channel. 


14:01

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
It was an idea of mine, but I didn’t even know how to do it. And eventually, as funny as this is, I used YouTube to teach myself how to start a YouTube channel. And I started the first video, and I put it out there. And what I was really terrified of was, I’m in farming, right? This is all small town. We all know each other. What are the neighbors going to think when Zach starts a YouTube channel talking about farming? So I was a little bit concerned there of what the small community was going to think. And most of it was supportive. It was supportive enough that it kind of motivated me to keep going, you know, and. And to continue doing what I do. 


14:42

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And then as it got more well known, it, you know, there’s certainly been a lot of times where it’s been awkward and it’s been a little bit uncomfortable. But there’s also a lot of times where it’s been so rewarding and so fun to be a part of, and. And I’ve really just had to learn how to, you know, not care. This is what I do. And as long as I feel like I’m being a positive voice for the industry, it shouldn’t matter what anybody else thinks about it. Nobody’s being forced to watch it or to follow along. So I hope that people see it for the intention that I have, and that is to be a positive voice for agriculture, for the industry that I love. And you had asked earlier, how did I come up with the millennial farmer. 


15:23

Monica H. Kang
Yeah. 


15:24

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
I remember when I first came up with the idea, I had a list in my head of a few different ideas of what I could maybe call it, and it came down to three or four different ideas that I had written down. And I remember talking about it with my wife, like, what should I call this? And I just honestly never thought that it would get to the point that it is now. I just thought this was, you know, this was my YouTube hobby, so whatever I call it doesn’t really matter. But at the time, I felt a little bit like, in 2016, when I had started this, I felt like millennials, like my generation, was kind of getting a bad rap at the time, a little bit in the same way that farming was. 


16:07

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And at the same time, millennials were seen as, like, the new up and coming generation that was so into technology. 


16:13

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And so I thought it was kind of like a unique oxymoron at the time to say, you know, the millennial farmer, that these tech savvy people that are so caught up in technology and always on their phones and they’re lazy and whatever, you know, whatever other things people had decided, millennials were, that blending that with farming, which was probably the total opposite idea of a millennial at the time, I thought it was kind of this ironic oxymoron that I wanted to put out there and just say, like, no, there are millennials out here that love farming and who love getting their hands dirty and who work with the livestock and work on the crops and work very hard to provide the food that America eats. The world eats, really. 


17:00

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
That was a big part of the reason why I chose that name, is because I found it to be somewhat of an ironic name that I thought people would be drawn to. 


17:09

Monica H. Kang
It indeed attracted my first interest as well. When I first saw it, I’m like, wait, I’m so curious. And also in Minnesota, bring us a little bit back to your comment as well. In farming, the neighborhood really matters. You obviously see and know the neighbors probably a lot more. And also, what I learned from the culture of Minnesota, people are even more friendlier. They do know their neighbors and care for it. So for those who don’t know where you are and what that culture is, bring us a little bit more context into that. 


17:41

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Yeah. So the. The two towns that I live between, they have a population of about 250 people and about 60 people, and we are dotted all over with small towns around here just like that. Now, there are a couple towns that are 10,000 people 20 or 30 miles away. So we have everything we need out here, but we really are a small community. If I go into any of these small towns around here, I’m going to know three quarters of the people that I run into with anything that I do. So the moment I hit upload on that YouTube channel, there were people that knew about it, and it’s small town, and there’s not a lot of people out here with YouTube channels, or at least there certainly wasn’t eight years ago in 2016 when I started all this. 


18:31

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And so it was, I’m sure, an interesting topic of discussion for some people because a lot of people at the time weren’t even watching YouTube. So to be able to bring the small town farming aspect to YouTube was something completely new. Right? There wasn’t many farmers on YouTube eight years ago. There were some. I’m certainly not the first to do it, but, yeah, the small town definitely took notice that Zach from up the road suddenly started a YouTube channel. And what the heck is going on, you know? So it can be a different mentality and you have to kind of learn how to navigate that. 


19:09

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
But I think overall, when people realize what it was I was doing and that I was trying to show agriculture in a positive light, I think most people really understood that and thought, wow, this is something that’s really unique and different and kind of neat. 


19:25

Monica H. Kang
And it speaks volume to your comment about the camera. I think that makes so much more sense now as a viewer and a fan. When I first came across, I just felt like it feels just so organic. I feel like I’m there in real life. And as you said, it makes sense because you’re not focusing on, like, how to perfect the angle. You’re like, I’m trying to just document. I got work to do, and I think that authenticity and sincerity is felt. And so you’ve seen a lot of changes. I know you probably evolved also how you capture and what you decide to share, where you want to highlight. But give us an overview. In the past eight years, where has agriculture? Where was agriculture? What were you worried about eight years ago? Where is it now? Where is it heading? 


20:06

Monica H. Kang
So bring us into those three parts. 


20:09

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Wow, that’s a loaded question. When you’re talking about agriculture as a whole, you know, the idea of agriculture and what it accomplishes has never changed, right? And that is the idea of bringing food, fiber and fuel to the world. It is as ground level as it gets. Ultimately, nothing continues without some sort of agriculture. And we have gone from everybody providing themselves with their own food for their own family to very efficient systems that we now have. And I’ve always said if people don’t like the large commercial agriculture like I’m involved in, that’s okay, and I support that. And if everybody wants to have their own garden and provide the food for themselves. That’s wonderful if they have the means to be able to do that, and that’s what they want to do. 


21:03

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
You know, I certainly would not want to discourage anybody from doing that, but in the world that we live in now, the industrialized world, people are very busy being very specialized at whatever it is that they do within their own industries and within their own careers. And so what we have is a system that has become very efficient and very good at growing efficient and safe food for the world. And so a single farmer like myself now feeds and provides for a lot more people than were able to 100, 150 years ago. Right. That’s why we’re still able to feed and shelter more people on the planet with so much less people actually involved in agriculture directly than. Than what were 100 years ago. So the idea of what we’re doing has not changed. 


21:56

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
We’re still the same families out here doing what we’ve always done. But the way we do it looks very different than it did 100 years ago. In the same way that technology and transportation has changed, so has agriculture. In the last eight years that I’ve been a part of it, I would say specific topics have changed some, but as a whole, it hasn’t changed a whole lot. But there’s always so much up and coming technology. And when I started the channel back in 2016, there really, there was a lot of technology coming out of specifically, like California, I would say, like Silicon Valley. 


22:35

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Startup companies had really caught on to the fact that there was a lot of technology within farming, and there were a lot of companies that were exploding out there trying to come to the agriculture industry and say, hey, we’ve got this new technology, this new idea, this new gadget, this new way of really getting more and more efficient at the ground level by way of technology, whether it was on your phone, on an iPad, on a computer, whatever it was, by sending drones up and reading the crops within your fields. And it almost became so noisy to those of us that are actually involved in agriculture that we dismissed, I think, 95% of those companies because it was just noise. You know, there were so many of them that would have these big promises, but ultimately, they couldn’t provide a return on the investment. 


23:25

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
They wanted us to buy into this technology and invest in this technology. And ultimately it ended up being, you know, sure, it’s neat information and they’ll send you a really neat map, but ultimately, the return on the investment just wasn’t there. And so I think what we’ve really seen in the last eight to ten years is that technology really narrow down and funnel down into what was big pipe dreams that never could come to fruition. And what really matters now, what were the companies, you know, what were the one, two or 3% of those companies that really had an idea that they could bring to us and really provide a return on that and point agriculture in an even more efficient direction? So I guess that would be the biggest thing that I’ve seen. 


24:13

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Change is so much of that noise has gone away and we really figured out how to hone in on the ones that are important. 


24:20

Monica H. Kang
So that’s good news then, right? 


24:23

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
It is very good news, yeah. Yeah. I really believe it’s very good news. Yeah. We’ve figured out how to take that technology and put it into usable forms that we can actually use at the ground level on the farm. 


24:37

Monica H. Kang
And I want to piggyback on your insightful comment that like, because of technology now, what a single farm would be able to feed has evolved and changed. And how you do, could you bring us some stats and reference for some of us who don’t know, like, let’s say, for instance, like what would be the capacity for what, let’s say you or family would be able to do in the, if it was in the past versus now, what’s possible and how, hence the, how part has changed? 


25:02

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Well, I know that the amount of people that a farmer would feed back 100, 150 years ago was well into the single digits. I mean, we’re talking under ten people back then that a farmer could provide for. And the amount of work that went into that was unbelievable. Right. Now they say that we’re providing for, you know, 160, 7180 people, each individual farmer. And that’s on the average, you know, that’s a difficult thing to measure, of course. And every farm is going to be a little bit different, but taking that efficiency into it is just unbelievable. Right. And we’re now farming with less, much less than 2% of us, about one and a half percent of us directly involved in agriculture. The way that I am who make their living off of being a quote unquote farmer. 


25:55

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And back in the early 19 hundreds, I want to say it was around, it was 30% to 40% of the population of the United States that was a farmer. And that is not, you know, that is not people involved with an agriculture. That is a farmer. 


26:13

Monica H. Kang
Wow. 


26:13

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And so if you can imagine, 100 years ago, I mean, everybody knew farmers, right? Even if you weren’t a farmer, you knew farmers. 


26:22

Monica H. Kang
Yeah. 


26:22

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And now we’re talking about one and a half percent of the population. If you grew up in and live in a big city and you don’t have a reason, a lot of the times to have to leave that city because everything you need to live is there within that city, I would gather to say there’s an awful lot of people out there who have never met and don’t have a direct relationship with a farmer. So it’s much more difficult. People have become much more disconnected. It’s so much harder for us as farmers to relate directly to the general public and vice versa. 


27:01

Monica H. Kang
Well, this is part of the reason why I was excited to have you on the show, because I know not only for me, but many of our listeners there might be like, oh, wait, I want to learn about farmer. I don’t know a farmer. Like, I have all these questions and, like, be able to democratize and just better understand and so appreciate you sharing kind of these, like, you know, really just humbling yourself, like, hey, let’s put this into perspective. And speaking of perspective, one of the reason, of course, were excited to have you is not only just celebrating the work that you’ve done and just, like, you know, highlighting the positivity of agriculture, but really fighting for the sustainability of it. So bring us a little bit more lens into it. What are you worried about? 


27:40

Monica H. Kang
Like, what are we, what are you worried about, I guess, in agriculture and what we’re not doing and things that you’re also excited about and where things are heading? 


27:49

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Well, I would say one of the biggest concerns to me, honestly, is what we’re looking at potentially for regulations. And I get concerned sometimes about some of the regulations that I hear politicians talk about or companies like the EPA talk about. And even though I know that they have everybody’s best interest at heart, I get a little bit concerned about regulations that can come from people that are not directly involved in agriculture. And anytime you make a regulation that prevents us or stops us from doing something a certain way, it means we have to come up with a different way to achieve the same result. Really, what worries me is getting regulations that come down the pipeline that can negatively affect the industry. So that is a big concern of mine, I hope. 


28:42

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
It seems like we’ve done a pretty good job of allowing farmers to be a part of those conversations. And so far, I don’t see much irresponsible regulation that is hurting our industry too badly. But it does concern me. And one of the things that I’m excited about, aside from seeing that farmers do have a voice when it comes to that, for the most part, is that I think that will increase. I think that we’ll continue to have a better voice or a bigger voice because I really do see those opportunities out there for us to connect with people like you, just like we’re doing here. 


29:22

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And I also see farmers reacting to legitimate concerns when it comes to things like I mentioned before, like, you know, the drain tile and irrigation and how we treat livestock and pesticides and GMO seeds and all the technology that we use. I think it’s been a little bit of a wake up call to some farmers to realize that, hey, the people that are concerned about what we’re doing, even though they may have the wrong idea about why we use it, their concerns are legitimate. And so I think farmers have been able to take that into account and say, okay, we need to remember that we are growing food, fiber and fuel for the rest of the world, and a lot of them are not involved in what we’re doing here. So it’s on our shoulders. 


30:09

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
We need to make sure that we are always making the best decisions that we can for the people down the pipeline who maybe don’t understand what it is we’re doing. And that’s okay. That when we use genetically modified seeds and drain tile and the way we treat livestock, we need to remember that their concerns are valid. And we need to think about it from maybe a different perspective and say, is there a better way that we can do this to approach those concerns and say, even though we know we treat livestock well, is there a way that we can put it out there and show people that? 


30:46

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Is there a way that we can do it just a little bit different so that they see it in a different light and say, oh, okay, I get it now, you know, are there ways that we can communicate with them? Are there things that we can do to make sure that we’re being as responsible as possible? And I think there’s so much technology out there right now and so many good ways to communicate with people like we’re doing here, that I think the free flow of that information is obviously better now than it’s ever been. So I think, you know, there are negative things that come with technology and social media and all of that. There are a lot of positive things that come with that as well. 


31:26

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
So I think I like to focus on the positives and see that things are evolving and changing for the better. 


31:35

Monica H. Kang
And building on that. Let’s talk about the future. So just like, you’ve seen a lot of changes as well as things that hasn’t changed in the past 810 years. Where do you envision things will head in the next 810 ten years? And where would you hope more people, both farmers and non farmers, could pay attention to? 


31:53

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Well, I think one of the big things that we’re going to have come along here is, honestly, I think self driving tractors are a big thing of the future. And there are companies out there right now that are already testing self driving tractors that will drive themselves without an operator in the seat. I know there’s a lot of farmers that are extremely skeptical of that, but we have all been very skeptical about things before, and those things end up coming to fruition. There are a lot of smart people out there who have been able to develop ways to make those things happen. Right. I imagine 120 years ago, people never thought that you could put three or 400 people on an airplane and fly halfway across the world. Right. They probably said that would never happen. 


32:41

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
I guarantee most people thought you’d never put a human being on the moon. Well, we did that a long time ago. Nothing to it. If we can put a human being on the moon 50 years ago, why can’t we have tractors that drive themselves responsibly and safely? So I’m actually on the other side of the fence. I think most farmers think that it’ll never happen. I think they think that it’s silly to think that would happen. I personally believe it’s not that far away. There are tractors out there doing it right now. I really, I think that they’re going to figure it out pretty quickly, and I think there’s going to be some big hurdles to that, and I think there will be some big hurdles to adoption as well. But the efficiency that can bring is unbelievable. 


33:27

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
You know, it’s going to save on not just labor, because you may not need a person in that tractor, but the tractor, I think, is going to be able to tell you things and come up with things so much more quickly than a human being can. I think it’ll be able to tell you before you have things go wrong and quicker than a human could, because the amount of sensors and data that tractor can bring in and tell you is amazing. I mean, I have an app on my phone that I can go on right now at any time of the day, and I can tell you where every single tractor or every machine of mine is at. I can tell you exactly what percentage of fuel is in that tractor. I can tell you how many hours are on the engine. 


34:15

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
I can tell you what the tire pressure is. I mean, I can tell you what the oil life is that’s left on that tractor. I can tell you so many different diagnostic things that it would make your head spin. I can tell you at any given moment what rpm the engine is running, exactly where that tractor is and what it’s doing. And so I think it’s only a short matter of time before we have tractors that don’t really need a person in the seat. Maybe I got long winded there. 


34:44

Monica H. Kang
Did I get away from the question? No, no. This is friends. I mean, it just shows the passion and insight that you’re sharing of just how, when there is good new technology and how impactful that can be. And I think the example of you sharing of that merger and also, like, how fast these things come around, faster than we think. One of the things, as I was listening to your insight, that kind of, you know, that we’d be remiss to not cover is also, of course, the impact of the pandemic. And COVID, I feel more people have had a wake up call, something called the supply chain and the food supply chain and the way, what’s gonna happen? How do I get food? Like, what’s going on? 


35:21

Monica H. Kang
And so, like, I’m curious, like, the reality, how was the impact for you all, for farmers, like, what were the things that you wish, like, honestly, the world didn’t know, but this is what was really tough, or, like, these are things that actually were good. So I’m curious if you can share a little bit more insight. 


35:36

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Yeah. With what I do. It was. It was a really unique situation as it. I think it was for everybody in different ways. Right. So for us directly here on the farm with what we do, the biggest issue was the supply chain to us when it came to seed and fertilizer and chemicals and. And even things like just making sure we’re going to have diesel and fuel for the tractors, making sure that we had the supplies we needed was the biggest thing. Now, I’m lucky. I live out here on a farm. We have. We have acres and acres around us where I was able to get out. I didn’t have to, you know, hide in my house and stay away from people. Honestly, I went about life like nothing was going on. I live out here where we can free rein. 


36:21

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
My kids were riding bikes and motorcycles and four wheelers around the yard and having a good old time. Right. They were having fun because they didn’t have to go to school. So life for us was a lot different in that regard. But were having a lot of hang ups when it came to getting access to fertilizer. There were certain chemicals we struggled to get. Tractor parts was a big one. You never knew if you broke something, if you’d be able to get what you needed or not. That’s true. So it was kind of scary that way. If you had the wrong part, break on a tractor, you were out of luck. I mean, there were times where they would say, it could be six months. 


37:00

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
You may never get that part again because the factory that makes that part or the shipping company that will bring that part to you know, whatever it might be, there’s some kink in the supply chain that you’re not going to get, that you can’t get that part. And so there were some scares there. The bigger one, which didn’t affect me directly, but I know it affected every consumer out there in the grocery stores, was ultimately getting mainly livestock in my area through the processors and into the grocery stores. We had hog farmers out here, hog and poultry farmers that couldn’t get rid of their livestock, you know, so there were barns of pigs that were well past the stage where they needed to be butchered for consumption. And they didn’t have anywhere to go with them. They didn’t have the processing bread. Yes. 


37:57

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
People wanted. People wanted the meat, right? They were buying. Buying it, like, they may not be able to get it again. And yet the farmers were not able to get it out of the barn and get it through processing. 


38:10

Monica H. Kang
I didn’t know. 


38:11

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
So it was a, it was really difficult for livestock out here. We had. I mean, I. I believe there were poultry barns that had to basically kill off the flock because they couldn’t afford to feed them anymore. And they couldn’t. They couldn’t get them to, through the processors because the processors couldn’t get the workers to come in because either the workers were sick or they were mandated to shut down. And it stopped that supply chain in between the farmer and the grocery store. So it was a really unique situation. And we don’t have livestock anymore, and we didn’t at the time, so it didn’t affect us that way directly. But it was a real scare for a lot of the farmers out here. What do we do with the livestock now that we have? 


38:58

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And they would feed them and feed them well beyond what they were supposed to. So ultimately, it was costing them so much money to continue to feed all the livestock that they weren’t able to get to the butchers. 


39:11

Monica H. Kang
It brings so much perspective. I mean, it’s making. I completely forgot, but, like, I remember how I felt, like, so confused why I couldn’t buy green onion because they were, like, sold out for, like, months. And I was like, now, like, the next time I saw green onion, I was like, oh, my gosh, I need to, like, prey on this because, like, I just not have seen green onion. Like, and I remember feeling so weird about it. I’m like, this thing that’s, like, not, didn’t cost much as a consumer. Like, I couldn’t get green onions. I couldn’t get banana. And for folks who’s listening, I live in Washington, DC. I live in a city. Like, these are things that are technically very accessible. 


39:44

Monica H. Kang
But during the pandemic, it was a humble reminder, but you brought us a humble reminder what it felt from the other side and how much that gap was there. And so thank you for bringing that. We’re hoping, knocking on wood, we don’t have a situation like that. But to your point about your comment about even, like, how much adoption phase there was with the tractors, it reminded me of how, like, at least in the workforce, everyone resisted remote work, hybrid, that’s never gonna happen. What do you mean? And now everyone’s like, oh, we’ve gone through this, now we need to actually normalize it. And then we’re still going through the transition. But I appreciate that it’s that kind of transition of new technology, new adoption. Honoring the past, of course, in tradition, is always going to be in all industries. 


40:29

Monica H. Kang
So I’m curious, like, I know you are a family business. You have continued both your family legacy, but also bringing for your next generation as well. Are you? I don’t know if I’m allowed to ask, but are you already hoping your children are also going to be farmers? Or is that something you’re going to just let them decide? Or, like, what are you noticing so far? Because I know that we see them in the videos. 


40:50

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Yeah, it’s. It’s both. You know, to answer the question there, it’s both. I would hope. I would hope that they have enough interest in it that they realize the opportunity that’s there. And I hope that they have a drive to continue the farm on. But at the same time, if that’s not what they want to do as a parent, you just want your children to be happy in life. So if it’s not something that they feel is for them, I don’t want to guilt them into it or think that I’m forcing them into it or anything like that. It’s honestly both. I mean, I would take a ton of pride in it if one, two, or all three of my children wanted to be involved and take over the farm. 


41:30

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
But if none of them do, then, you know, I hope that whatever they choose to do makes them happy. 


41:38

Monica H. Kang
We covered so many different grounds, but I can’t believe how fast time has already gone. As we wrap up our conversation, a few questions I love to ask, and something that I’ve been asking all my guests on this particular show is helping us continue to better educated. And so, as we celebrate Earth Day, I would love if you could help share with us three maybe people who you admire, love, respect that you think are amazing, and innovators who happen to be a farmer in the agriculture industry. Who would these three people be that we should learn from as well? And if you can shout out their names, tell them who they are. I’ll also follow up with you later to make sure we have their information so we can do a shout out for them when love is up. 


42:20

Monica H. Kang
T here, who are some farmers and other innovators in the industry that we should learn from as we continue to educate ourselves better about the space. 


42:29

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
So I would say there’s a couple of dairy farmers out there that I really love following one of them. Her name is Megan. I believe she calls herself Megan. Derry girl. Something along those lines on TikTok. But I bet if you type in Megan dairy farmer, I bet you will find her. She’s got a pretty good following and she does a fantastic job of showing what is real on the dairy farm. I mean, there are sick cows that they have to deal with. Yes, there are truths about dairy farming that are out there. And she does such a good job of explaining it as well. Explaining it very well. There’s another dairy farmer named Dan. Dan. You know, I follow these people, but I don’t even know what their online name is. But Dan is. Dan is a dairy farmer as well. 


43:27

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And I’ve only met him one time in person, but he’s another one that does such a great job. I know he’s huge on Facebook. I know he’s big on TikTok. I bet if you type in Dan the dairy farmer, you’ll find him as well. But Dan is a great. Another great platform to follow to watch him and what he does on the dairy farm. He makes it a lot of fun, too. He’s a very fun guy, so he’ll do some silly things once in a while. On the Peterson farm brothers, their videos are very different than mine, most of them, but they do a lot of music videos and parody videos that they do on the farm. So Peterson Farm brothers, they are huge. They’ve got a lot of different parody videos that they’ve done. There’s three brothers, and I believe one sister involved. 


44:19

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And they have livestock as well. They’re down in Kansas, and they do a great job of bringing just a whole different perspective to it. It’s a whole different way. That reminds me of farmer Derek. He’s another one that is from Kansas. And he’s got some super fun videos out there, you know, a few of them that have gone viral. He works really hard at making some unique videos, too. And then there’s just, there’s so many different farmers out there that do such a great job of teaching what farming is really like day to day. And they’re on every platform you can imagine. And so I’m just, I’m glad, you know, from eight years ago when I started, it was very difficult to find farmers on social media, specifically ones that would talk about farming. 


45:08

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Like I say, I’m not the first one to do it, but there weren’t very many when I started. And now if you look, you will find them. There’s a lot of them on there, but those are some of my favorite accounts to follow when it comes to farmers that are out there. 


45:25

Monica H. Kang
I love it. Thank you so much for sharing that. And folks, listeners, you know the drill. Find the show notes in our [email protected], dot. If you miss it, just send an [email protected]. 


45:37

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Comma. 


45:37

Monica H. Kang
I’ll help send you the links so that we can all follow and learn as we continue to better understand about farming and be a better advocate for agriculture. You shared so many gems of wisdom. Zach. Any final words of wisdom you want to share with our innovators, no matter where they are in their journey? 


45:58

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
You know, I think, I don’t know if I have words of wisdom or if I’d call it that, but I think I always like to tell people that. I think whatever it is you do, whatever it is you’re passionate about, specifically, I speak with a lot of people in agriculture, and I like to let them know that with the amount of noise that’s out there right now and everything you can see online, right, you can see so much negative stuff. But I think it’s important to remember that with that technology comes the idea that we can be positive voices for our industries as well. And so within the ag space, I think it’s so important that some of us remember that. 


46:35

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
And people like myself or Megan or Derek or Dan or any of the ones I’ve talked about out there, the hundreds of others that have joined in. It’s so important that we use technology for the better and be the positive voices for our industry that we can be so that we can. We can help to teach people like you what it really is to be out here farming and what it really means to us and how we do it and what it can mean to the world. And I think that applies to any industry you’re in. We have a great opportunity right now, probably better than ever before, to be able to relate to people and be transparent and show them what it is that we do. And you never know what can come from it. Right? 


47:15

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
I built this whole millennial farmer brand that I never could have imagined was a possibility eight years ago. And from there, we’ve been able to give back to the industry. We’ve been able to donate to a lot of different causes. We’ve been able to donate not just money, but also time when it comes to helping out some family farms. Through organizations like Farm Rescue, we’ve been able to use our platform to raise over $100,000 that we have given out to local volunteer fire departments. And these fire departments have used that money for training and supplies to help rescue farmers that get into grain bin situations. Grain bins look like a simple machine, a simple contraption for holding grain. 


47:58

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
But if you’re not involved in farming, you probably don’t know how dangerous they can be and how many farmers are actually hurt and killed in them every year. And so we’ve been able to give back to these volunteer departments that are out in these rural areas to give them the training and the equipment and the experience necessary to be able to help farmers in those situations. And so being a part of that has been so humbling, to be able to use the platform for good and to give back. And, you know, like I say, if you choose to use it for a positive voice, you just never know what it might turn into. 


48:31

Monica H. Kang
Well, Zach, we’re very grateful for your leadership and also continuing to do the good work, even though it takes a lot of time. And even if you’re not thinking about the angles, you are documenting your out there, capturing these insights. Final question is, what’s the best way folks can stay in touch with you? 


48:47

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Well, the first place I would say to find me would be on the millennial farmer YouTube channel. But if you go to millennial farmer on just about any platform, you’re going to find me. I’m on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook every day. Snapchat’s about the only one that I’m not on. I do have an old account out there somewhere, but I just have not been on it in quite some time. Maybe I’m too old. Snapchat just never spoke to me in the same way the other ones do. So you can find me just about everywhere. Pick your platform, wherever you want to follow me. You’ll be able to find me. 


49:17

Monica H. Kang
Thank you so much for joining us folks. You know the drill. We will put the links all in our blog so find it there and please give a shout out. And Zach, thank you so much for taking the time to sharing your story. Thank you also listeners for tuning in for another story. We will be back again next week to dive into another conversation as we continue to celebrate Earth Day this month. So thank you so much. We’ll see you again. 


49:42

Millenial Farmer, Zach Johnson
Yeah, thank you guys. 


49:46

Monica H. Kang
Thank you so much Zach for sharing us and rethinking about how we can support agriculture and be a better ally to our earth and be more sustainable. The every intentional act in what we buy, what we eat and understanding that makes a difference. And I love this powerful minder is about its not always about the shiny new objects and technology to be the solution as you heard his examples of how he thinks about the whole system and how technology is really a small segment to help improve. Many of us are probably having that experience in our own industries, but the key, as he points out, is are we staying open to those new technologies as well as making sure we dont get distracted by the noise? 


50:33

Monica H. Kang
So thank you Zach again, millennial farmer for joining us to sharing your story and inspiring us all and how we can also be a better ally to the earth. Thank you all again for tuning in to another conversation at curious Monica. I’m your host, Monica Kang and we’ll be back again with another story next week as we celebrate another week of innovators. Have a great day. Thanks so much for tuning into today’s episode. Your support means the world to us. So we’re so glad you’re here. Want to do a little shout out for those in the team who made this possible. Thank you to everyone at Innovators Box Studios. 


51:17

Monica H. Kang
Audio Engineering and production is done by Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering Assistants by Ravi Lad, Website and Marketing support by Kree Pandey, Graphic Support by Lea Orsini, Christine Eribal, Original Music by InnovatorsBox Studios and executive producing, directing, writing, researching and hosting by me Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. Thank you for continuing on the journey of how to build a better workplace and thrive with creativity. Visit us at innovatorsbox.com and get some free resources at innovatorsbox.com/free. We look forward to seeing you at the next episode. Thank you and have a wonderful day. 

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