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Farm transition: Giving young farmers a fighting chance

THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE: Young farmers and ranchers willing to step up to the plate.
THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE: Young farmers and ranchers willing to step up to the plate.
Veteran farmers hold the keys to farm transition and preparing the next generation to carry agriculture forward.

With tighter margins in crops and livestock this year, farmers have been hearing a lot of advice from the experts. That’s good, because the more information you have, the more opportunities you have to use what wisdom is out there to your benefit.

The same could be said about farm transition to the next generation. As they say, “You can’t take it with you.” So, it is wise to look at long-term strategies to bring a member of the family or some other hard working young producer into the fold and teach them the ropes early on.

I have been going back to the words of University of Nebraska Extension farm transition specialist, Dave Goeller, who spoke about this topic at Husker Harvest Days last fall.

Dave said, “If you want a successor, then figure out a way for that person to have a fighting chance to succeed.”

These are simple words, but they pack a lot of important information and theory. At farm transition meetings, I’ve repeatedly heard farmers and presenters lament that we need more young folks to get into production agriculture.

But the reality is often that when it comes time to rent or sell land, farmers just rent it out or sell it to the highest bidder, who is mostly likely an established farmer. They certainly have that right, but I think what Dave was saying is that during the farm transition, giving just a little, and exploring ways to bring in a young producer to the operation early on will pay big dividends down the road, not only for the veteran farmer, but for rural Nebraska as a whole.

Related:  Are rural communities ready for more young farmers?

To give those young producers a fighting chance, I think we have to do a few things. First, we have to expect them to work hard and to put some skin the game. Secondly, we have be able to back away from the operation and let them make some management decisions on their own with guidance so they can make some mistakes, receive some rewards and earn ownership into the operation. And third, we have to know when to turn over the keys and let them make the operation their own.

We all want a healthy rural America and the veteran farmers out there hold the keys to making that happen. So, to honor and celebrate National Agriculture Week, there is no better way than to ponder Dave’s wise words on farm transitions.

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Bonus:  Do we have food discussions wrong?

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