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LAYING DOWN ROOTS: Farming and ranching operations in Nebraska face hurdles in finding opportunities to bring home the next generation.

Jumping back into the family ranching operation

LEAD Comment: For fifth-generation Nebraska rancher, the road back to the family operation was a unique one.

By Logan Pribbeno

One of the hurdles faced by a number of farming and ranching operations in Nebraska is finding opportunities to bring home the next generation. How did you transition back to the farm or ranch, and what strategies have worked for you that others might find helpful?

My own transition was unique and abrupt. Like most farmers, I was hooked from an early age. I knew I wanted to farm and ranch. A stipulation made by my family was a requirement to work outside of agriculture prior to my return. I attended university out of state, where I met my wife, and worked in Silicon Valley for five years. At this point, my wife and I were questioning life’s greater purpose along with the hurdles you face starting a family in the city. That searching led to a 2012 phone call from my father, who had an opening that needed to be filled prior to the spring. It was transition now or wait for the next opportunity.

Two months later, we were living in my great-grandparents' house on the ranch. On the family operation, a steep learning curve awaited me. I was, of course, blissfully unaware of it. My wife went from working in advertising to waitressing and cleaning at the B&B. The change was dramatic, but we were happy to be there.

I am the fifth generation for our family operation at Wine Glass Ranch, a ranch and dryland farm in Chase County. For me, the transition to full-time ranching was immediate, because there was a job opening and a salary I could assume right away. For most of my peers, the transition to full-time farming took a few years and side jobs. Each route has its benefits. Jumping in full time immediately following a finance job felt like it created a steeper learning curve for me.

In honesty, it took us nearly five years to find our bearings and start to lay down some roots. We now have two daughters, our own house, and my wife is now working in marketing with a highly effective team at a wonderful company.

On the ranch, we’ve grown as a team and as an operation. Behind us lie many mistakes, but through a web of helpful people, we are well poised to grow and improve on what the previous generations have built and cared for.

Some advice
Good times are ahead:
The drought years of 2012 and 2013 provided a unique setting to get started in an all-dryland operation. I was fortunate to go through these years as a greenhorn. The highs and lows in the commodity ag sector are drastic. A great man once said, "Only if you have been in the deepest valley can you know what it is like to be on the highest mountain." For many of us, 2019 feels like another valley. I take comfort in knowing that mountains await.

Get experience: My father’s advice on farming, or any worthwhile pursuit, is that it takes 10 years to become anything. I did not want to believe it, but on my seventh year in this pursuit, I know it to be true. If you are considering the transition to a farm or ranch operation, practice patience. Jump in with both feet, but give yourself some years of experience and education before you leap.

If you do only one thing well, partner well: On our first date, on a sunny patio in California, I don’t think Brianna had taken a sip of her water before the words "cattle," "Nebraska" and "farming" came out of my mouth. The transition was very well orchestrated in my mind, but the reality has been much wilder. Without her pioneer attitude and caring there would probably not be a fifth generation on the ranch.

Pribbeno is the fifth generation in his family's operation at Wine Glass Ranch in Chase County in southwest Nebraska. He is a member of LEAD class 35. His father, Jeff, is a member of LEAD class 9.

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