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A family member must bring value to the farm business and offer skills that help the business.

John Hart, Associate Editor

September 8, 2022

2 Min Read
Mark Stebnicki _NCFB_Jolene_Brown_Shawn_Harding.jpg
Professional ag speaker Jolene Brown visits with North Carolina Farm Bureau President Shawn Harding after her presentation at the Blackland Farm Managers Tour Aug. 3 at Southland Farms and Howell Farms in Pantego, N.C.NCFB/Mark Stebnicki

Of all the presentations at this year’s Blackland Farm Managers Tour Aug. 3 at Southland Farms and Howell Farms in Pantego, N.C., one of the most pressing had nothing to do with boosting corn yields or managing fertility.

Jolene Brown, who farms corn and soybeans with her husband near West Branch in eastern Iowa, gave a talk, “Stop the Fighting on the Way to the Funeral Home.” Her bottom-line message: A family farm is a business first and foremost.

“You and I tolerate stuff in business that no one else would tolerate,” Brown said at the field day, stressing that just because a family member is part of the family, doesn’t mean they have to be a part of the family farm. In essence, a family member must bring value to the farm business and offer skills that help the business.

Some takeaways include:

  • Just because you were born on a farm doesn’t mean you have the right to work on the farm. As in any business, you must provide a skill or service that helps the farm business grow and remain profitable. If you expect a paycheck from the farm, you need to bring something of value.

  • You have to be honest about money. Money matters. Do the money the right way.

  • Is the cost of the family member equal to what value they bring? Do they pay for themselves?

  • A conversation is not a contract. If it’s not in writing, it does not exist.

  • Communication is the bloodstream of your farm business.

Indeed, parents certainly owe their children love and support, but they don’t owe them a business. A family member must deliver value if they expect to be a part of a farm business. That’s a message not always easy to hear, but Brown says it is vital if you want your business to continue on after you are gone.

About the Author(s)

John Hart

Associate Editor, Southeast Farm Press

John Hart is associate editor of Southeast Farm Press, responsible for coverage in the Carolinas and Virginia. He is based in Raleigh, N.C.

Prior to joining Southeast Farm Press, John was director of news services for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. He also has experience as an energy journalist. For nine years, John was the owner, editor and publisher of The Rice World, a monthly publication serving the U.S. rice industry.  John also worked in public relations for the USA Rice Council in Houston, Texas and the Cotton Board in Memphis, Tenn. He also has experience as a farm and general assignments reporter for the Monroe, La. News-Star.

John is a native of Lake Charles, La. and is a  graduate of the LSU School of Journalism in Baton Rouge.  At LSU, he served on the staff of The Daily Reveille.

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