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Manager's notebook: Son gets cold feet  now what?

Manager's notebook: Son gets cold feet now what?

Ag's down cycle could make younger generation think twice about farming.

For the longest time my son told me he wanted to join me on the farm after college graduation, two years from now. Today he tells me he’s not so sure. Maybe he’s getting cold feet because of grain prices. Meanwhile, I’ve been aggressively bidding on cash rent acres to accommodate an expansion. Now what?L.R., Wisconsin

Since aggressively bidding on cash rent acres translates into farming with red ink in the current farm economy, it’s probably time to smile and count your blessings that your son has had second thoughts.

What's a father to do if his son decides not to come back to the farm after college? (Photo: Design Pics/Thinkstock)

If his reason for a change of mind is tied to commonsense economics, maybe broaden that grin. If he wants to broaden his real-world exposure with his first job being off the farm, rejoice all the way to the bank.

On the other hand, weigh his words accordingly and realize that two years to go in college makes him just as much of a high school kid as the future business partner you’re imagining. 

Clean up your mess of over-bid cash rent contracts as soon as possible to set an example of the penny-pinching it took to survive the 1980s. Over-bidding cash rents to facilitate growth without profitability is being dishonest with the next generation. It’s no different than a scheming accountant on Wall Street disguising earnings to court new investors. It’s not sustainable.

Unless you are impatiently sitting on a gold mine, it’s almost never advised that the next generation come directly back to the farm without the experience of, and exposure to, working somewhere else. In order to attain true job satisfaction, they need to contribute some of their own education and job experiences. Business savvy is a key management necessity and is acquired much more quickly working an outside job while remaining connected to the farm. It will be extremely satisfying to download responsibility as quickly as possible to your son, assuming he has done his homework and his business skills are adequately in place.

Consider that off-farm employment with continued on-farm involvement might be best for everyone in the end. It takes the negative pressure off of you and the business to expand on a schedule. It also puts positive pressure on him to learn and contribute.

Jerry and Jason Moss operate Moss Family Farms Inc. Got a question you want answered? We’ll try to help and we won’t publish your name. Send emails to

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