Graduation Into Life

They say it takes one generation to start a farm, the second generation to grow it into an empire and the third generation to run it into the ground.  For most young farmers today, they are the cursed!

The issue isn’t skill, knowledge or networks.  The issue is Entitlement and inner drive. 

Entitlement is often one of the biggest issues that rear’s its big ugly head during farm succession.  When one is born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth, he/she expects things to happen for them without fully comprehending the personal sacrifice required to make it happen. 

I’ve seen second generation and fourth generation families suffer from the third generation curse.  It isn’t an issue of family lineage, but an issue of being born into a successful family and not understanding what is required to be successful.  Also, knowing what poverty feels like and why it’s to be avoided. 

Parents often send their kids off to college and get teary eyed on the date of their graduation.  However, the years thereafter as the kids integrate themselves into the operation aren’t always bliss.  That is because your kids haven’t truly been educated. 

Families make sacrifices in the form of a labor shortage on the farm when their kids go off to college.  However, they expect that college is the only source of education that their kid needs before returning home to the farm.   Focus on education is on book knowledge and giving experiences the 2nd generation never had (ex. Travel).  Not on building character or drive. 

The question every parent should ask is not just how we can have a son/daughter come back to the farm with knowledge and skills which can be of value in growing the future of this operation.  The real question is how can we get the raw inner drive to succeed without entitlement issues like Grandpa had?

For anyone having a kid graduate from college this summer, the best present you can give them is a $1,000 and the help wanted section from a Farm Paper in a Different State.  By your kid spending a year out of state and on a farming operation you admire/want to become, your kid will:

  • Get homesick and learn about the value of family. 

  • Learn about the value of money and how to budget when living on $15/hour.

  • Learn that they aren’t entitled to own a 52 inch T.V. and if they want it, they’ve got to work for it. 

  • Learn that they could never buy their own farm by working for someone else.  

  • Learn that personal life (i.e. girlfriend dramas) or parties should never impact work performance. 

  • Learn to get out of bed and show up on time without dispute.  Or else get fired…

  • Learn to be a better employer, by first being managed by a non-family member.

  • Learn the business culture/work ethic from a farmer whom you respect. 

Most folks never take this advice.  They think they’ll never have entitlement issues with their perfect kids.  They feel their kids can’t learn as much by working for someone else as they can working by walking into an assistant manager position on the farm.  Then 10 years later, they’ll tell you a different story and by that their kids have a family to support and the farm has other constraints.  Then it becomes a much more complex problem to solve…

Even if you have to hire two men to replace your 20 year old son and have to go into debt to do so, it’s a cheap investment in comparison to the long term cost of having an entitled spoiled brat in their 30’s…

My biggest suggestion is to make sure that your kid is out of state for this experience.  If your son works for a local farmer or agronomist, he is less likely to get fired due to small town politics than if he did the same mediocre job in a different state!  They can’t be living in the hired man’s house, raiding mom’s fridge or borrowing cash from friends when money gets tight.  The tougher the experience, the better they will learn to think and grow in character.   Also make sure they don’t work a fluff job but for a workaholic whom will be a tough employer and teach a work ethic you can’t.  Finally, make sure it’s on an operation which emulates what you envision your farm becoming like someday.  It’s one thing to tour a farm 3X your farm’s size, but another for your son to work within that environment and learn little management tricks from his boss which he/she can someday apply at home. 

This advice isn’t just for boys but also for daughters.  If you envision your daughter to be CEO of your farm’s corporation and she wants to be treated like a partner, not a princess: prove it.  By her “holding her own” on a tougher outfit, it will earn her the respect she needs in order to come home as a manager.  For a daughter to prove herself to her family elsewhere makes a significant impact on whether she is an employee/shareholder or if she’s actually “the boss” when she’s enters her 30’s. 

For the son/daughter to understand what life is like in Agriculture without your family’s name or money is the most critical thing prior to them inheriting your family’s good name/money.   The concept is not to make a fortune, but to gain a lifetime experience and character which in the long run will make your farm exponentially profitable.  If after two years, they come home broke; great.  If he finds it tough to make ends meet on minimum wage, even better.  Let him/her starve for a year.  If they go through this tough character development (weaning), then they will have the inner drive to succeed like Grandpa did.   

Character isn’t bought or taught, it’s earned through tough experiences.