Farm Progress

Do you regret farming?

I worried that I might not enjoy farming after the farm boom subsided.

Maria Cox, Blogger

June 1, 2016

2 Min Read

Many millennials (those born in the 1980’s and 1990’s) had opportunities to start farming during a generally “good” farm economy. In our operation, my parents were able to pay off some carryover debt, keep newer equipment, and expand the cattle business during this time.

My parents and I made plans for me to enter the family business in 2012. Grain and cattle prices from 2012 until 2015 were profitable. Hay prices increased in 2012 and 2013, but have since lowered and stabilized.

Mike Wilson recently asked me, “Do you regret coming back to farm?” His question was challenging and almost scary, but an important one to ask. He was referring to the reality that some younger farmers may not want to farm now that the economy has gone south.

Do I regret it? Not at all.

It is difficult to write, but I was worried that I may not enjoy farming once the farm boom subsided. In the past few years, marketing grain hasn’t been a problem because prices have been continually above the cost of production. I haven’t had to worry about a loss during year-end tax planning. I have been able to pre-pay inputs, keep grain on inventory until the next year, and even set some money aside for retirement. I also could lock in margins with feeding cattle. Today, the margins in grain and cattle are lower or don’t exist.

My advice

Times have changed. I think we all knew that prices wouldn’t stay high, but we didn’t want to face that reality.

We are in a period of time in which we have to work really hard. Working hard does not mean to drive the tractor longer hours, but have better focus on management, finance, and marketing. We need to sell when margins are available.

We are going to have to work harder to make a profit, or potentially work harder to lose less money. As young farmers, we need to reflect on why we farm. If you started farming only for money, this might be the time for you to form an exit plan. You may need to find a career with a steady paycheck each month.

Why did I come back to the farm? I enjoy being profitable, but that is not the reason I farm. I love working with my dad on land where my great grandfather farmed. I like running my own business and enjoy relationships we have with landowners. I love making hay sales and hearing about how cattle customers enjoy our hay. Nothing beats the sight of a new born calf, corn popped up in rows, and freshly baled hay.

Prices are depressed, but my spirit isn’t.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

About the Author(s)

Maria Cox


Maria Cox is a sixth generation grain, livestock, and hay farmer from White Hall, Ill.  She has been farming with her family since 2012, and also has experience in grain marketing and crop insurance.  She holds a M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University and a B.S. in Agribusiness from the University of Illinois. You can find her online at and twitter @mariacoxfarm.

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