This was the title of a discussion I sat in on at this year’s Farm Science Review held in September. Comments were from Emily Adams who is an Ext. Educator in Coshocton County. It caught my attention because it is a topic I frequently discussed while working for OSU Extension as well as in the time since I retired. Farm families often spend a lot of time worrying about if any of their children want to or can farm.
The economics of farming has a lot of impact on this topic and for many years some parents actively tried to convince their children to not go into farming because of difficulty of making a living. Times change as do the ability of each generation to learn how to deal with the challenges in farming. For many years the common saying was “children wanting to farm had to inherit or marry into a good farming operation to have a chance to succeed. I have seen a few farm families “adopt” non -family members into the operation but that is not the norm.
In addition those wanting to farm often started small with a few hundred acres while working a non-farm job for several years until they could farm full time. Often the success of a person wanting to farm depends on their commitment as well as their skills as a farmer or the help they received from family or friends as well as the support of a spouse.
Farming is not unlike other new businesses in that over 50% of new businesses fail at some point. Farmers who want to pass their farming operation on to the next generation need to make a major effort to bring them into the business if they are interested. Every generation faces plusses and minuses about farming.
We are currently in a lower crop price cycle; we have higher land prices and for most of Greene County livestock production is not a key factor in making a living farming. Water quality along with technology are driving forces in agriculture with emphasis on GPS systems and “stacked” seed traits exhibiting insect, disease or weed resistance to name a few of the changes taking place in farming.
Some of the most important factors affecting whether a child wants to farm deals with the attitude of the present farming operator(s). Is it positive or negative? Has the current operator taken time to sit down with their teenage children to determine their interest in farming realizing it may change? Have they explained the challenges in making a living from farming? Can the farming operation support more than one family? Asking children what they think about farming may help parents see if farming is in their future. It can also be a time to see the strengths and weaknesses of your children with regards to farming.
Do you as a parent involve your children in making some of the decisions in operating the farm? Emily made the comment that it is not all bad for the child to work on another farm after graduating from high school or college for a year prior to coming back to work on the family farm. This experience can give the individual a perspective they may never get from the home farm and help them decide if farming is for them. And, they may find there are different ways of doing things on the farm than what they grew up experiencing.
There are so many undercurrents in these types of family discussions. Parents may still be dealing with their parent’s involvement in the farm operation let alone adding their children to the business. Some children come into these meetings with the attitude they deserve a place on the farm. Here again we cannot assume a “place” on the farm is being held for them nor can we assume the children are even interested in farming if we do not present the opportunity for dialog on the subject.
The topic may not come up without some planning by the parents and or the children. Probably best to include all siblings in such meetings as we cannot always know what our children are thinking on this topic. Also realize the parents may not have all of the answers to questions ask by children about the farm and their future. Such meetings can be emotional with a “fight or flight” reaction to some of the questions being discussed. That is natural and each participant must ask themselves “what do I really want” from such a meeting involving parents, children and perhaps grandparents. One meeting will not answer all the questions or concerns but it is a start.
GCFF Picnic/Ag.Scholarship Fundraiser
Jim Byrd along with his wife Ann announced the final tally of the money raised at the Farm Forum Aug. 19 Picnic/Scholarship Fund Raiser at the September Farm forum meeting. Final tally showed $4,000 was raised from the event which will be awarded next spring to deserving students pursuing a degree in a field related to agriculture.
We extend a special thank you to all donors for the event including those who gave money, door prizes or raffle items. Many Farm Forum members were involved in selling tickets for the event as well as contacting donors and arranging for the meal and entertainment and event in general.
Jerry Mahan is a retired OSU Extension Educator Agriculture and Natural Resources for Greene County. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.