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 This pattern has served us well for the past 150 years or so, but is it an out of date way of thinking or does this approach still have merit?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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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.
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.
we want to farm ITS ALL WE HAVE EVER WANTED TO DO
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 WILL LIVE THERE AND WORK FOR FREE FOR THE NEXT TEN YEARS FOR SOMEONE that will help us farm
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???