July 22, 2020
I’ve been hearing lot of chatter among established farmers saying that “it’s not a good time for the next generation to enter farming.”
I beg to differ.
First, a few words for the up and coming generation. Some of you just started farming the past couple of years and you’re hoping to soon dip your toes in the water on your own. It’s okay to not know everything. No one does. But it’s okay to listen to others, especially those who have been through the tough times. They want you to succeed, so let them help. Do your own thing but keep your ears open.
This is a good time to learn everything you can about the farm. Ask and watch. If there’s a banker or accountant meeting, go along. Sit down with senior managers on your operation. Sit down with them when they go through their books to make plans. Learn how to plan!
Learn how they make decisions, and why. It is important that you understand their logic, even as you decide to blaze your own trails.
There is more to running the farm than being in the field. There are a lot of decisions that could have just as much impact. Take the time to understand input costs and the best ways to maximize income.
To those who just began farming a couple years ago, now you see what your folks were talking about. Am I right? You probably heard a few of these quotes:
-“Times are good right now, don’t get used to it.”
-“Prices are not going to stay this high, save some money!”
-“You are going to see tough times one day and you best be ready.”
And now those times are here. But a tough farm economy is a great time to get established. You are learning early in your farm career how to struggle to make things work. You are also learning early on how to cut costs and run an efficient farm -- because you have to.
Nothing makes us learn faster than necessity!
Senior manager’s role
Now on to the senior farm leaders – your task is getting these up and comers ready. You have a lot to do!
You not only have to teach them how to farm, but how to run a business. You have to teach them an entire business cycle from start to finish. And we all know that’s not all. Then you have to teach them decision-making: what to plant, how to manage input costs, and how to contract or market the product.
Teaching all of this will take more than a growing season or two. It might take years. You have to prepare them and fill their heads with everything you know so they have a solid foundation to build on.
Get them involved
Is it ever the ‘right time’ to get young people involved? Probably not. But it is never too early, and it’s always a good time to start. Take them to meet with all of the professionals you work with. Make them go with you. Their first meeting with the banker, CPA, attorney, should not be the day you die!
Let them see you make your loan proposal, fill out your financial statement, and work on your taxes. None of these are fun to watch, but it is the only way they will learn.
Don’t let current times discourage you from getting them involved now. Don’t think that times are too hard right now to bring them in. What better time for them to learn how to run a lean operation? What better time for them to see that it takes time, thought, and sleepless nights to get make it through?
Farming is cyclical and times will get better. Wouldn’t you rather start them off learning how to make it through rough times so they will truly appreciate and be cautious, even in good times?
For the future of agriculture to be bright all generations must work together and learn from one another. The path to learning goes both ways. With different generations comes different perspectives, and the combination of those perspectives is how great things are achieved.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.
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