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Managing your own farm business is not enough, teach young people the life lessons too.

David Kohl, Contributing Writer, Corn+Soybean Digest

March 27, 2024

2 Min Read
Getty Images/James Warwick

In recent months, my travels have taken me to many parts of the country to address agricultural groups. One stop was the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis where I received the Honorary American FFA Degree. Next, was Oklahoma City for my 46th consecutive year addressing the American Bankers Association Agricultural Bankers Conference. Sixty-eight thousand people attended the National FFA Convention and nearly 500 bankers and vendors in Oklahoma City provided a lot of perspective. Engagement with this diverse group that finances agriculture and others that are the future of the agriculture industry brought some interesting perspectives and wisdom to share.

Do not be an oak tree

One retiring banker had a good piece of advice for those embarking on transition management. Do not be an oak tree that shades out young saplings or does not allow the next generation to grow. This is often observed in the agriculture industry in farm and ranch management transition. Often the control-oriented owner that managed and grew the business dislikes giving up control. This drowns out the future generations’ ability to take on responsibility and accountability, which can lead to a situation of stunting their handling of management and ownership decisions. In transition management, to maintain control you are required to give up control or eventually father time or family dynamics could create a train wreck!

Finances versus life management

Another nugget pertaining to transition was the following quote, “The financial aspect of transition and retirement is the easy part.” Figuring out life management is the most difficult part of transition management and retirement. You will go through various stages. The honeymoon excitement of freedom, travel, and doing new things. Next, will be the disillusionment or even depression stage. You run out excitement for your favorite hobbies and are required to give up control, which can impact your purpose in life. This then moves you toward the reorientation part of the retirement cycle. This often requires you to reposition yourself, your purpose, and what role you are going to play in business or life in general.

Change versus tradition

Attendance at the National FFA Convention found accelerated change, but a solid tradition. The membership ratio is approximately 50-50 male to female with 75 percent of the leadership teams being female. It was refreshing to see the number of urban chapters and the diverse backgrounds represented at the convention. However, the tradition of the opening ceremonies, attending some of the contests, and watching the people who had developed life skills has not changed. Another tradition of young people thanking me for opening a door while not being on their technology and being inquisitive about who I was and what my purpose was at the convention was refreshing and bodes well for the future of the agriculture industry.

The opinions of David Kohl are not necessarily those of Farm Progress.

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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