Emily Meredith
Emily Meredith

A few weeks ago, my husband accompanied me on a work trip to California in an attempt to find a few days of vacation (that was an epic failure, but I digress…). My husband works in technology, and as a result of his connections, we were able to participate in a personal tour of Google’s campus in Silicon Valley. For those of you who have seen the Vince Vaughn movie, “The Internship,” there were many similarities—but it was completely surreal to be there in person.

I would venture to guess that 99.9 percent of Google’s workforce is made up of Millennials—the generation born between 1977 and 1999. The generation marketed to by the likes of Chipotle and the generation we at the Animal Agriculture Alliance dedicated our entire Stakeholders Summit to this past May.

 The day before we visited Google, the “hubs” (short for husband) and I were scouting cheap Alcatraz tickets (I do work for a non-profit, after all) and the best deal we found came as a bundle package which included a two-hour ride on the Magic Bus. The Magic Bus tour was meant to transport you back to the 1960s – a time of flower power, rock and roll, hippies, psychedelic, hallucinogenic drugs and the Summer of Love.

As San Francisco was arguably the birthplace of the hippie movement—we decided to give the Magic Bus a shot. As our tour began amid a background of blaring Janice Joplin, our flower-child guide, named Mother Gaia, provided us some background on how the children of the 60s came to flock to San Francisco for the Summer of Love.

While it would be easy to say that hippies in the 60s just wanted to shirk responsibility and avoid the draft (a sentiment, I should note, that was shared by a passerby who shouted at the Magic Bus “Get a job you hippie,” to which Gaia responded: “This is my job!”), more likely, the children of the 60s were just trying to find their place in life, wanted to make an impact and had reservations about the direction of the United States, and the world—politically and otherwise.

The 60s were a time plagued by financial instability, political upheaval and traumatic events.  It was a time where according to Gaia, the “rich got richer, while the poor got poorer,” where a generation watched both President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. get shot and where young men received their draft notifications to enter a war that many Americans didn’t support.

Hopping off the Magic Bus, my husband and I were both struck by the similarities between the flower children of the 60s and our generation: millennials (and trust me, we didn’t take anything while aboard the bus!).

Millennials have experienced the most tumultuous financial times, arguably, since the Great Depression. There are students graduating every day with mounting student loan debt and jobs that are non-existent or that are grossly underpaid. We’ve seen our country enter two wars, and just as our parents can tell you where they were when JFK was shot; we can tell you where we were on 9-11.

The children of the 60s gathered in darkened living rooms as an American took his first steps on the Moon; we gathered on January 20, 2009 to watch the first African American become President. No matter your politics—we witnessed history that day.

I’m not the first columnist to compare millennials to hippies, but I am, perhaps, the first to actually be a millennial myself.

While I don’t always agree with the generalities about my generation, I do know that, for the most part, millennials have a desire to have an impact; to effectuate change; to be inspired.  We’re passionate, obstinate, and yes, sometimes stubborn.

But for all our perceived “negative” characteristics, there’s something special about millennials.

I’ve read a few articles lately that discuss the reluctance of millennials to return to the family farm and the difficulty many ag schools have in recruiting and retaining students. Working in the agriculture industry, I can’t say I’m all that surprised.

Gauging the reaction of the non-millennials (the majority of attendees) who came to our Stakeholders Summit this past May, I noted reactions everywhere from general befuddlement, to frustration, to downright hostility towards my generation. Some days, it feels like agriculture wished it didn’t have to deal with the likes of Gen Y.

Look, I get it. When Chipotle and others are convincing my peers that their product is superior and “trendy,” I get irritated too. But instead of focusing on marketing to millennials, I instead want to stress the importance of connecting with your millennial workforce – millennial employees like me.

In my next post, I’ll share with you the “experience” at Google, and what this innovative company is doing to attract and retain millennials. It’s important because you probably employ some millennials, too.