A farmer commented about how each year he is amazed how the seed plunked in the ground comes up as a beautiful carpet of green. He recalled the day that his then 3-year-old son was digging in the dirt with his dad, and he “got it” that the seeds were sprouting to turn into a grain crop.
Grooming your next generation of farmers is an art. You don’t want your kids to be pressured to follow your footsteps, and you do want them to be safe as they tag along with you or start to do chores at a young age.
As you go to agricultural fairs and watch the horse and cattle shows, learn from the grooming you see there.
5 Things You Need to Groom Your Next Generation of Farmers
No one shows up at the fair unprepared. They have all the sprays, combs, ribbons, and tack ready to go. They have worked hard for months to train the animals to respond to their gentle commands. What conversations have you and your spouse had privately about the ways you want to train your children to appreciate agriculture as a career? Is there positive talk about marketing at the table? Is there a forum for regular business meetings to assign job descriptions and learn about the cash flow cycle demands on a farm?
If all a child hears is “we can’t afford to do that” or “Dad doesn’t have time to play” pretty soon the mold is set, and the child sees that they won’t have any fun if they choose to farm.
Fun and Friendship
Fun and friendship are big factors, especially to the new generation of young farmers. As a farm coach, I’ve had 30-something young farm dads tell me, that they are choosing very clearly to have fun along the way and be friends with their kids, besides mentors. These young farmers with workaholic dads and moms are choosing a different way to groom their next generation of farmers.
Patience and Safety
Patience is an important part of grooming and leading cattle. I think the same goes for training the next generation of farmers to farm safely and follow good work habits.
We have practiced good habits to enforce safety, but our teenage son did rip down some hydro wires with a raised truck box one harvest when he was in a hurry. What did he learn from his mistake? Slow down and be safety conscious.
There is a dance that we do as farm parents, in allowing kids to stretch their skills, and still keep them safe. Some young families have fenced a portion of the backyard for the toddlers, and others let the young ones ride on the big machines.
Take your family to a farm safety event and let them hear it from another guide. Practice common sense, and check your attitude about safety. If everyone treats each other with respect and uses good communication, you are well on your way to the prize. Lots of things go wrong when people are irritated, lack sleep, or are angry.
You won’t see cowboys or cow leaders being cruel to their prized fair entries. Patience in leading, training, and mentoring is a given if you want your kids to grow up to be farmers.
Purpose and Passion
Why are you in agriculture? Why do horse people and cattle breeders spend so much time preparing for the show? These folks are passionate about what they do and have a purpose.
At our farm, I check in on my hubby to see if he still is passionate about what he does. He works very hard and makes many decisions each day. We decided that our son needed to own some of the work, so a while ago he planted his first quarter. He was blessed with a decent canola crop and marketed some for top dollar. This was a learning experience when his dad also started working with him on the accounting of his expenses and income.
If your purpose is to have a profitable career and pass your management skills and insights on to your children, that is honorable. If you think your kids will work as hard as you do, you might be in for a surprise because, as a coach, many young farmers have told me they “want a life!”
The fair folks usually make showing a family event. They use it as a form of fun and recreation. I hope that you are having some fun farming, and can lighten up to spend some time mentoring your kids in a way that they will feel free to make the career choice they are passionate about.
We gave our son a timeline of seven years to get educated, work for other managers, go to flight school and ag school, and do lots of traveling. Our purpose was to have a target for when we need to know what he feels his life purpose is, and if that is farming, our management decisions will align with his. If not, we will make changes. The happy news is that he chose to be our successor and is now farming full-time with us.
I’ve had farm kids who don’t want to be the 4th generation on the farm, and their parents really know that in their hearts, but find it difficult to talk about. When the purposes of the generations are not aligned, you might want to have a facilitator help you run a family meeting to talk it through, let go, and shoot for new goals.
What kind of reward are you hoping for? Some folks want the legacy of the family name to carry on to the next generation. Some folks want the financial security of knowing their adult children are great managers and will keep the parent’s aging years financially secure. For some, the reward is a good day’s work, three meals, and a bed. They have not great wants, and they are content with the returns of an operation with manageable debt and rich relationships.
Grooming young farmers requires a lot of intentional time, fun, friendship, patience, safety, purpose, passion, and the prize. What are you doing to intentionally groom your next generation of farmers?