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Management conflicts on multi-gen farms

BrianBrownImages/ThinkstockPhotos AerialSpraying
Now that I’ve been farming for seven years, I am starting to feel a push and pull between who makes the decisions.

I knew last week was going to be stressful. We had the week planned out, and on Sunday a thunderstorm came out of nowhere, throwing a wrench into our plans.

We had cover crops growing ahead of the 2019 corn crop. Experts say the rye cover needs to be terminated at most a foot tall, and our rye was inching taller every day. We were behind on spring nitrogen and planting, and our wheat needed topdressing.

After a sleepless Sunday night, I picked up a gas station coffee and headed to the shop, prepared for a stressful conversation. The conversation with Dad didn’t disappoint, as before I made it to the farm he had ordered a plane to spray a few fields. I told him I was disappointed that he hadn’t talked to me about it first. Then I put a little fuel on the fire by mentioning that I had wanted to spray the Saturday before the rain but he hadn’t listened to me.

By midweek we had two sprayers, a gator, and an airplane spraying cover crops. Everything got done. I knew we needed to act fast, but I wish Dad would have talked with me before jumping the gun and hiring a plane. Or, followed my recommendation to start spraying the prior Saturday. 

Managing a business with someone else

This isn’t a blog about spraying cover crops, but rather about how it can be hard to manage a business with someone else. I know that all farmers are stressed during spring. I understand that multi-generational management can be both good and bad. The older generation brings experience and knowledge, while the younger generation provides technology and fresh ideas.

For us, the older generation was the sole decision-maker for years, and the younger generation fell in line. Now that I’ve been farming for seven years, I am starting to feel a push and pull between who makes the decisions.

Deciding the exact time to do things like spraying, planting, cutting hay, and more, doesn’t come natural to me. I know those things need to be done but deciding on a start day is hard.

It’s taken me several years to learn the ebbs and flows of daily operations. So, when I want to start a task like spraying, my dad says it won’t work, then he makes the same decision two days later, I get thrown off base.

Deep inside, I feel that if I don’t make all the crop farming decisions, I’ll never learn how to manage the complete business. I talked to my mom about it, and she lovingly but forcefully said that I’ve taken over most of the management decisions, and that my dad has 50+ years of farming experience and he felt that this decision needed to be made. 

People may think I’m lucky to still have my dad on the farm. I am thankful he is here, but there will be a day when I must make all the decisions. We don’t know when that day will be, but it’s time that we have a talk about future decisions and consulting each other before changing those decisions.

When that day comes and I’m the only decision maker, I’ll probably look back at this blog and wish my dad were here to help me.  

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

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