Farm's Future Depends on Next Generation's 'Fit'

Farm's Future Depends on Next Generation's 'Fit'

Consider farm's needs carefully when bringing in next generation

Is a member of the next generation coming back to farm with you? It can be great to bring in a family member who is passionate and excited about the future of Ag and your family farm. They can bring a lot of energy and new ideas to the operation.

In working with farm families, our legacy advisors get a unique perspective on the expectations that are set up (or neglected) when a family member comes back to work on the farm. When bringing in a family member, it's important to think about where the farm is headed, and what types of skills the next generation is going to need in the future.

Consider farm's needs carefully when bringing in next generation

Key things to consider are: What does the new employee bring? What are they most interested in and passionate about in the operation? Do they bring new skills or ones that complement those of other family members or employees already on the farm?

Families need to be clear about expectations with members of the next generation who want to work on the farm. There needs to be a match between the farm's needs and the skills brought by the family member. Otherwise, confusion reigns. Also, the new employee needs to know what his role will be. They will ask: 'where do I fit in?'

Here's a story of what happened in one farm family who had a cattle and grain operation. The farmer had already brought one of his sons into the operation. This son was very passionate about livestock production and spent nearly all of his time on that aspect. Another son had a job for several years at an equipment dealership, but now wanted to work on the farm.

The farmer thought this would be an ideal scenario because this son could do all the machinery repairs and maintenance, and could help with the grain production side the rest of the time. So he brought him into the operation as an owner.

Related: 'Leading Up' for the Future of the Farm

The farmer soon discovered that working on machinery was really all his son was interested in doing – he didn't want to help produce the crop. Both he and his son were disappointed and unhappy with the situation. Tension escalated between them, and the son ended up leaving the operation for a job where he could spend more of his time doing what he enjoyed most. The farmer and the other son had to buy him out.

This was a tough situation – one that happened in part because expectations on either side weren't clear from the outset. Imagine what might have happened if the farmer had given the mechanically inclined son a role description of what his job on the farm would look like on a daily basis. If the son had seen that the majority of his time would be filled with the work of producing the crop rather than fixing and maintaining the equipment, it's not likely he would have taken the position.

The son also had the chance to bring more clarity around his potential role when he was considering coming to work on the farm. He could have asked his dad about expectations for where he'd be spending his time.

Approaching the 'hiring' decision like a business could have helped this farm family prevent a difficult situation. Using clearly defined role descriptions helps both generations determine the best 'fit' – for both the farm and the job seeker.

As more members of the next generation are interested in coming back to the farm, it may help to create job descriptions for your operation. Think about what the next generation has to offer, and most importantly, how it fits with the future of your farm. When there's a match, you have a great candidate on your hands.

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