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Gredig: From the Fencerow
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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 This pattern has served us well for the past 150 years or so, but is it an out of date way of thinking or does this approach still have merit?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? 

Peter Gredig
Farms.com Media

Follow me on Twitter. I’m Agwag.
This commentary is for informational purposes only.  The opinions and comments expressed herein represent the opinions of the author--they do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Farms.com.  This commentary is not intended to provide individual advice to anyone.  Farms.com will not be liable for any errors or omissions in the information, or for any damages or losses in any way related to this commentary.

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Yes I do like my kids to farm,knowing how live is on the other side of the fence yes.
But if it is not in you DON'T think about IT.......
let us face facts farming is not the most profitable business, don t mortgage your childrens future
Make certain they get a good education and understand the worldly creation of money
On the maternal side of our family, we have a copy of a farm deed registered on Sept. 27, 1380. Farming meant basic human survival. There was an extremely limited amount of products people could purchase at the time. The acquisition of food and the preparation of such was mainly the sole responsibility of each individual.

When our family name, on the paternal side, was legally registered in 1580, farming still was a duty so to provide nutrition for the family. Society was becoming more affluent and government had many convoluted laws pertaining to "markets" with weights, grades and measures laws, regulations to determine the price of many agricultural products in relationship to societies' ability to pay, permits to "ship" regulated commodities. Royal inspectors overseeing official receipts with date, name, grade, tares. Licences were even required for some regulated commodities to protect domestic supply. Commerce.

Then there was the Great Plague. The rules of society changed as the disease spread. There was a limiting factor in manpower as people became sick a/o died. Commerce was impacted by barriers created by the lack of manpower and with the fear of the disease, borders closed. Production, communication and transportation were severely affected. People to till the soil, harvesting, herdsmen, weavers, etc… were in complete shortage. Many people died of starvation as a result of the Plague and its' rippled effects to the social fabric. Farming itself changed as a result... with modifications such as fencing laws and other adjustments. But our families survived ..... with the help of the accumulated knowledge and skills of farming among other factors.

During the 1920’s free trade among the European nations expanded quickly and farming became more industrialized as agricultural commerce took a firm foot-hold. History reared its ugly head again when borders closed during the late 30’s and early 40’s but our family was self sufficient in regards to nutrition therefore survived while many others did not.

Farming evolved throughout the centuries which allowed more people to pursue other economic endeavours and in return, relied on farmers to provide for their nutritional needs.

Agriculture became more advanced in the "buying and selling" of commodities (we call it agri-food today). Commerce was shaping society as much as it was shaping agriculture. With improved communication and transportation, the marketing of perishable/non-perishable goods allowed society to choose from a boarder community which made domestic supply all but irrelevant.... in the social sense. Economics now dictates agricultural marketing in most countries in the world today. Commerce.

Where farming was an individual social responsibility it is now about environmental and economical sustainability.

Do we want our children to farm, in the 21st century?

In an idealistic world with a huge dose of fantasy, the obvious answer is YES. Centuries of accumulated specialized knowledge is still available to them through surviving elders. Knowledge that helped to allow our family to persevere throughout history.

Will our family continue to farm?

Of the vast amount of family members that lived and worked on family farms the last half century, we can now count the fingers on one hand the number that might stay on the farm in the next decade or two.... unless something dramatically changes… either which way.

Farming has become industrialized. It is less about the "person" than it is about the "property". Domestic primary production is not even on our government's radar. The sustainability of Ontario agriculture is severely in question and the only people that don't know are our "leaders'..... of which it is painfully obvious.... that they neither care.

The real shame is that Ontario is losing "farm knowledge" at a furious rate today .... all for the sake of "economics". Commerce.

The contract domestic farmers have with the Crown is all but destroyed and "economics' has become the real barrier for the next generation of which they are acutely aware of.
I think the real issue is one of "Do the kids want to farm and are they prepared?"

The transfer of the farm is a major challenge these days as the operations are larger and have greater obligations than the 100 acres that used to be the average operation....

How many kids want to and are able to take over millions of dollars of debt and multi million dollar operations....

It is a big issue and only get more serious as the number of farmers start thinking about transition.
the transition has to be done in stages, that is the only way.

Roadrunner said:
I think the real issue is one of "Do the kids want to farm and are they prepared?"

The transfer of the farm is a major challenge these days as the operations are larger and have greater obligations than the 100 acres that used to be the average operation....

How many kids want to and are able to take over millions of dollars of debt and multi million dollar operations....

It is a big issue and only get more serious as the number of farmers start thinking about transition.
Yes I want to farm. Do I want my children to farm? I want the best for my children and farming is one of those businesses that could offer the best. I can not afford to buy into my parents operation so my family needs to be more creative on how we are going to continue to farm.
I think part of the issue is that some people think they need immediately what their parents have today without all the work that lead them to where they are. One of my parents kept saying to me I need to get a job in town and forget about farming. That has stopped since the day the salt mine closed. Farming is a difficult industry with a lot of rewards you have to work hard at to find. It is not much different than the hundreds of jobs out there that are disposable - including the historic "safe" jobs such as the salt mine. First time in my life I have ever seen it idle.
My children need to experience life before they decide that they "want" to farm instead of feeling like they "need" to farm.
I like your point Wayne... they should "want" to farm not feel like it is an obligation....
As a young person trying to make that decision, I am glad that my parents encouraged me to get an education, work off the farm and see a bit of the world. I always knew that I wanted to farm and give my own children the opportunity. Now, when it comes down to the logistics and the planning of being more than an 'employee', I find myself overwhelmed with the thought of the big dollars and big commitment that comes along with it. I find myself wondering 'How do you add onto and grow an operation that is already a good size?' and 'Will I ever be as good at is as my parents?', 'What if I fail?'

I think there are definately young people out there who have the interest and desire, but it can be such an overwhelming decision given the nature of the business and economics envolved. Definately continue to teach children about agriculture and what a rewarding career it can be, but try not to make them feel 'obligated' to carry on if they aren't really interested.
Here are some other comments that were sent to us by our website visitors on this topic.



I'm the youngest of three and I think my parents (well my dad anyways) wanted someone to take over the farm. He didn't have to worry since my oldest brother lived and breathed the farm since he was born. My other brother never wanted to farm but he's directly involved with ag by being a gov't extension guy. He also comes out from the city to run a combine on the farm. I farm part time with them while also operating my own crop consulting business. With all the challenges that ag has, is and will always face, I strongly believe that farming is a great lifestyle to live, but also a great business opportunity to be in, as long as your willing to change and adapt to keep being profitable, and to be a manager as much if not more so than a labourer.

Re: Do you want your kids to farm?
Your commentary is very interesting. I am wondering if the issue is not whether our kids should farm versus should our kids be in agriculture. For two or more generations now I feel we have in general been discouraging the next generation from pursuing a career in agriculture. Now as we look across the landscape, most sectors within our industry are struggling to find good people. There are lots of very good opportunities in agriculture as we move ahead. Yes most of them will be off the farm, but I think it is time we tell our kids that the future is in agriculture with some great career opportunities to pursue. Who knows for some or hopefully many that path may lead them back to the farm.

Re:Do you want your kids to farm?
Yound people need a lot of help to get started. Young farmers don't have access to the capital needed to finance a farm operation and profitability is not gauranteed. If farming does become profitable the established operations expand, and this drives up the amount of capital necessary for starting a farm business.
Profits aren't the only thing causing the farm exodus. The growing book of rules that farmers must follow is tying them down. On that note, I'm glad the government is prorogueing. It just means that they aren't making any more rules for Canadians to follow!

Re:Do you want your kids to farm?
We operate 250a of low bush blueberries for the pass 40 years and we are ready to pass it on to our son but the amount of capital needed to get into this type of business is very high . The only way this will happen will be if the parents supply 60% of the total capital needed. There must be other ways for young people to start farming?

Re:Do you want your kids to farm?
Our family has been mixed grain farmers for 100 years and we have two boys who probably will not farm. Thanks to our Gov`t policy we are getting out of the livestock business. Inspite of what some people believe I don`t think the ethanol and biofeul policies have hurt the meat sector. We just have differnet grains to use. Distillers grain works very well for animals. However the subsidies that the corporate hog barns have recieved choke off the family farm. I cannot compete with companies who recieve subsidies when my mixed farm does not qualify because we have grain and hogs. I have taken the hog buyout and will quite. Perhaps the thing to do would be restructure the farm into separate sectors, but I believe I have missed the boat now We should have done this 10 years ago. Who knows what our Gov`t will do next? Too much risk to take a stab in the dark.

Re:Do you want your kids to farm?
I am personally a young person who is going into agriculture, it has never really been a choice for me, it is what I have wanted to do since before I can remember. I agree with earlier comments that agriculture has a bright future; so many opportunities are opening up within the primary sector and throughout support industries. I also agree that we must have the ability to adapt if we are going to be able to remain sustainable into the future, and this includes regulations. I agree that many are complete bull, but inevitable. If worldwide agriculture is taken into account, we are only at the beginning; countries in Europe and much stricter regulations than we do. We need to be ready for these changing regulations and be proactive now in things that will become law in the future. We have to not be afraid of changes that are occurring in our industry and approach them all with an open mind. I also noticed that many people are talking largely about their sons; don’t count out your daughters. With our changing industry, we girls are very capable of running operations and I know more than a few who are more than ready to take on the task.

Re:Do you want your kids to farm?
Indeed its an amazing discussion, Sorry, I dont belong to such experienced and elite farming community. Me and my wife are in IT industry for over 20yrs now, however, since childhood I had a dream and passion to get into farming/Ag. I have accumulated funds, and am currently migrating to Canada, just to own a farm and actually get into this profession. I am facing exactly similar situation, where I have to rethink of my Kids, will they ever like to get into farming, we ourselves have no experiene, what will we do for kids, but yes we have decided to start one day they way some of our you have started 5 Generations back. I would definately encourage my children to find better and innovative ways withing Ag. Its a great profession and as many of you said the best lifestyle I can imagine, then why not offer that to our next generation? at least an option for it.

Re: Do you want your kids to farm?
No not like times are now its hard farming with the cut of some crops we tend.They might want to but i want them to go to school and do better then me.

Re:Do you want your kids to farm?
yes i do and i just got this program too that gives you every thing how too farm and its really good my 14 year old kid Tommy loves it so much so I will put the link down hire but yea just trying too help if you are just getting in too lat your kids farm because its a really nice thing too do with your family
this is the link
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.

There are several ways to ease into the family farm without having to go into unbearable debt if it is feasible to do so. You may even structure it in a way that you are expanding and taking over at the same time. If you sit down and speak whats on your mind with your family it can be worked out as with my family. its not as scary as it seems if you break it down into smaller steps when covering all the aspects.




there is a farm    100 acers    five bedroom house   and a nice barn

ITS NOT A FANCY HOUSE  but the land is nice  sixty acers at the bank

the whole place is  130 thousand    and its not been farmed for a few years



we are in ontario    dad  45   daughter  24   sons  16  and all we want to do is  farm

a hundred acers with beef and goats

wheres the person that will help us???


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