Do you want your kids to farm?
As a farmer and father with a young son, it’s a question that has started to creep into the back of my mind. The old saying is, “farmers farm for their sons and daughters”. The inference is that for a family farm to succeed, each generation builds onto what came before and passes it on in better shape. This pattern has served us well for the past 150 years or so, but is it an out of date way of thinking or does this approach still have merit?
I never felt any pressure to come home to the farm. I was encouraged to find summer jobs off the farm to get some exposure to other ways of making a living. I laid a few million yards of sod (well, it seemed like millions) for a landscaping company for a couple of summers, harvested tobacco, and worked at a golf course. After high school, I went to university chasing a degree in agricultural economics. At home, the message was, if you want to come home after university, the farm will be here.
When I took a job in the big city as a policy researcher after graduation, I could tell that my parents still held out hope that I would farm, but either way, they were moving forward and the farm was evolving.
After a couple of years of fun in the city the light bulb went on and I knew I wanted to give it a shot at home. It was an easy decision that took 24 years to become apparent. I guess I learned from my parents that it’s important to encourage the next generation to consider all the opportunities available to them, including agriculture. And this could mean primary production or a job related to agriculture.
By the time I came home, the hog operation had been shuttered and a progressive apple orchard was added as a new enterprise. If I had shown interest earlier, there is a good chance that there would have been more land and more pigs, but there would also have been more pressure to follow that model. Because my parents had moved forward with enterprises that were right for them, there was room for me to start my own direction when I started farming.
Now I am the farmer with a kid. Some days the boy thinks living on a farm is the best ever (go-carts rock!). Other days, he wonders why we can’t live in town where the kids play street hockey every day after school! I think I was the same way.
Some people say the economics of agriculture today make it very difficult for farmers to keep the farm viable and available for the next generation. I think this has always been true, but I agree that high asset values make it more difficult for some to forego cashing in, especially if there are numerous siblings that must be considered in succession planning.
I guess at this early stage I’ll do my best to be a positive influence and to keep as many options open as possible, both for myself and my son. I’m not as concerned about building a certain scale or kind of operation. My experience is that the next generation should be encouraged to consider new enterprises and new approaches.
What do you think? Do you want your kids to farm? What are the opportunities/challenges?
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because of selfishness
the dad should have said NO
the dad should have been a man and done what he wanted
I was talking to a friend the other day....the son wants to farm but the challenges of succession between the 3 generations of the family made it impossible....they needed to sell the land and operation to satisfy the siblings...still bitter feelings between everyone.
we just want to farm one hundred acers
there is three of us to work full time
we will live in the country and work for free for ten years for a farmer that will help us get our own hundred acers
i can make 25 thousand a year with a hundred acers and thats all we want