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Supporting the next generation is not just funding in farm business

Be sure to share wisdom with the next farming generation, but accountability is key.

David Kohl, Contributing Writer, Corn+Soybean Digest

May 9, 2024

2 Min Read
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Breaking bread with a number of producers in the senior generation after a speaking engagement provoked an interesting conversation on how we can support the next generation of producers and encourage participation in the agriculture industry.

One of the most rewarding benefits of conducting events is when the sponsors invite 4-H and FFA members to participate. I chuckle when the principal of the school is the bus driver and I am humbled that some teachers will bring their students to events up to two hours away. I find that adult and community support of time, money, and other resources can manifest interest in activities in the agriculture industry. As many of you know, I hold student participants accountable by citing points and perspectives gained at the event. I was so impressed with the FFA chapter in my hometown because they were dressed in proper attire and greeted attendees at the door.

No next generation

With 21 percent of American farms and ranches with no next generation, reaching out and connecting with individuals to continue your legacy can be a method of “walking the talk.” Recently, an elderly couple indicated that it was very rewarding to help a young couple, who were not family members, launch their business after an apprenticeship.

Hold them accountable

One point of wisdom in bringing along the next generation is to be nurturing, but then hold them accountable. For example, require the next generation to go through a traditional lender to build their credit acumen, even if that means having a higher interest rate. This builds confidence and requires them to find avenues of financing and expertise to assist on their journey.

Some producers are allowing the next generation to carve out an enterprise of an established business or start a new business and utilize existing machinery, land, facilities, and livestock resources to grow. Sometimes the older generation has to look the other way at innovative technology or failures, and avoid saying, “I told you so!” The key is to be supportive but not have “oak tree syndrome” which drowns out the seedlings from growing their own experiences.

Keep growing the business

Make sure the younger generation is growing their business, financial, marketing, and communication skill sets. Remind them that relationships count and to occasionally shut off their technology. Monitoring family living costs using a budget and living within your means is just as important as the business finances. Encourage them that being a bridge with the non-farm public will be important for their generation, both in one-on-one and community settings.

While this is not an all-inclusive list, it will get you started. At your next senior outing, I encourage you to have a discussion with your peers and come up with some of your own recommendations!

About the Author(s)

David Kohl

Contributing Writer, Corn+Soybean Digest

Dr. Dave Kohl is an academic Hall of Famer in the College of Agriculture at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. Dr. Kohl has keen insight into the agriculture industry gained through extensive travel, research, and involvement in ag businesses. He has traveled over 10 million miles; conducted more than 7,000 presentations; and published more than 2,500 articles in his career. Dr. Kohl’s wisdom and engagement with all levels of the industry provide a unique perspective into future trends.

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