Farm Futures logo

2 new ways to think about next-gen farmers

Switching careers to ‘build’ the farm, and a ‘Return on Energy’

Davon Cook, Family business consultant

September 26, 2022

2 Min Read
Peter Garrard Beck/Getty Images Plus

Recently I led a peer group meeting where much of the conversation focused on the decision of a talented and accomplished individual to switch careers and join his family’s farm.

Two concepts emerging from the conversation stuck in my mind and got me thinking. One is a common phrase that many of us in agriculture use, that might not serve us well. The second is a new concept coined during the conversation.

First, the phrase. When talking about next generation family members who choose to work here after school or other jobs, we often say they are making the decision to “come back” to the farm. As I heard the word “back” used repeatedly, I began to think how that word is not much different from backward. I don’t think most of us view it that way, but what subconscious message might we be sending prospective talent—especially if they are leaving other lucrative career options? What if we talked about “moving forward” in the next stage of their career to “join” the farm, or to "build" the farm? 

Second, the concept. The group was discussing several potential new ventures for the farm, given the influx of new talent. Of course, we immediately started evaluating Return on Investment (ROI), and other financial considerations. Then we talked of the intangible aspects, such as what new ventures are going to excite you? If you have the capital available and it’s a profitable opportunity, what will re-energize you at this point in your career? What will keep momentum moving strongly forward?

The new person coined the term Return on Energy (ROE). There is a non-financial return of excitement, satisfaction, and momentum that comes from putting energy into the right project. What if we considered that ratio, in combination with financial returns, when prioritizing our investments?

Davon Cook is a family business consultant at Pinion. Reach Davon at [email protected]. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

About the Author(s)

Davon Cook

Family business consultant, Pinion

Davon Cook is a family business consultant at Pinion (formerly K Coe Isom). She helps families work well together in the business and navigate transitions in leadership and ownership. She works with farmers and ranchers all day every day and is passionate about production ag. Davon has been specializing in this area since 2012, partnering with Lance Woodbury at Ag Progress and K Coe Isom. She facilitates peer groups covering a range of strategic and technical topics, so she understands the issues producers are managing every day. Her perspective is shaped by spending ten years working in her own family’s cotton business near Lubbock, Texas, and a career spanning the ag value chain from McKinsey to ConAgra to consulting with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation throughout Africa. She welcomes comments, questions, and conversation!

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like