Jenny Burgess sits in the office on her farm, working on some paperwork.

She’s back at home after a trip to Orlando, Florida at the end of February. Burgess traveled to Florida on an invitation from Bayer to take part on a panel at their AgVocate Forum, which focused on the next generation of growers.

Burgess was contacted about being on the panel by Janice Person, who works for Bayer Crop Science and knew Burgess through the AgChat Foundation.

“She sent me an email saying ‘we’ve got a panel starting up for the next generation of growers,’” Burgess said. “She said ‘we’ve got two already but I really think you’d fit in well, with starting up your own farm and how you all did it, and explain and try to help younger kids realize the potential that’s there to grow.’”

Jenny Burgess and her husband, Geoff, began farming 11 years ago between Nickerson and Sterling, Kansas. They have expanded their farm from 300 acres to 2,000 since becoming first-generation farmers.

“Both of our parents had off-the-farm jobs,” Burgess said. “His dad was an ag teacher at a college, and his mom was a paralegal. My mom worked at the bank, and dad worked at Arrow Machine, then transferred to being a corrections officer at Hutchinson Correctional Facility.”

Geoff Burgess also moved to the United States from the United Kingdom. Their start-up story is what prompted Bayer to invite Jenny Burgess to be on the panel.

The panel — The Changing Landscape: Defining the Next Generation of Growers — included Burgess, Carl Lippert and Kamal Bell.

Lippert is the co-owner of Grass Ridge Farm and co-founder of FeedX, an app helping farmers feed livestock based in Wisconsin. Bell is the president and CEO of Sankofa Farms, which brings youth to the field to teach them about agriculture.

“We talked about it on the panel that the average age of a farmer is getting older and older. Who is going to replace them?” Burgess said. “That’s what part of this panel was. There are people that are thinking ahead about how we’re replacing them. Carl’s doing technology, and Kamal is an ag teacher that’s bringing inner-city kids out to the farm and teaching them skills they need for the future.”

Burgess is no stranger to talking to the next generation. She visits Sterling to talk to school children about agriculture.

“Once a year I do go into the classroom and explain what we do on our farm and the technology that we do use,” Burgess said. “One of the first questions I ask is how many kids in here are farm kids. You think Sterling, Kansas, there’s got to be farm kids, but a lot of times it’s just me and the teacher out of 25 kids.”

She said that anecdote surprised folks listening to the panel.

Secondly, she asks students what jobs are part of agriculture. Often they think farming is all there is.

“They don’t realize there’s food science, the technology jobs; they don’t have any idea,” Burgess said. “And that saddens me in a way, when we want to bring out kids back, I wonder if we’re shooting ourselves in the foot by not giving them the list of careers that can keep them home.”

Those insights are what she spoke about at the Bayer forum, along with specifically getting into farming. Many have the perception that acquiring land and equipment is too hard. Burgess knows it’s not easy, but doesn’t think it is impossible.

She said the trip to Orlando was a whirlwind, but she’s happy to have had the opportunity.

“I came out of there with relationships I didn’t realize I would have, and that you won’t get if you don’t leave little old Kansas,” she said. “It was such an honor to be able to do that.

“We shared the obstacles we have to go around still to this day.”

Even with the obstacles, she’s happy to be back on the farm doing what she loves. She told the panel she had special equipment to get her home.

“My red shoes were a hit,” Burgess said. “They asked about my background and asked where I was from and I said ‘I’m from Kansas and later these red shoes will take me home.’”