Sometimes I hear people frustrated by things they have little or no control over. Of course, weather comes to mind immediately because we may be frustrated by the weather, but we cannot control it. For me, something that leaves me scratching my head is when I hear someone in the older generation concerned that farms keep getting bigger and bigger. They also mention there aren’t any new young farmers getting into the profession of production agriculture. At that point I divide that older generation into two groups, one with a farming heir and one without a farming heir.

The group with a farming heir is sometimes not clear on their planning. Their ideas will not work or the cash flow for the next generation. I see problems that have solutions with proper planning, valuations, products, and legal documents, but they are unwilling to go down that road. I scratch my head as they revert to complaining about the "bigger and bigger" trend when they could actually be addressing it within their own family. Ironically, by not addressing what they can control, their farm is then put in a position to get sold or rented to the very farms they’re complaining about.

The other group of people does not have a farming heir. Why is that? Maybe they have no children or none of their children are interested. Maybe their children were not inspired or did not see a viable path to farm. They too tell me they don’t like where “this farming thing” is headed, but when they have a chance to help a young farmer and rent it to them for $275/acre, they turn around and rent it to another farmer who offers $325/acre. Now I am OK with farms of all sizes, so the size of the farm is not the point. The point is, if you don’t like something, do something about it.

So what can be done?

  • Start early with educating your children and giving them opportunities on the farm. Paint a real picture of what things could look like for them someday if they are interested in farming.
  • Talk about your finances. Be real. Sometimes things are tough, but you also have to let them know that other times can be very rewarding.
  • Act like you enjoy it. Sometimes if all your children see is you being miserable, why would they want to come back and farm?
  • Ask yourself if you really do want more young farmers. If yes, would you sacrifice something financially to make sure someone in your family or outside your family has an opportunity?
  • In the end, does the almighty dollar actually speak louder than your words? I had a farmer tell me that none of his children or grandchildren were going to farm because none of them would pay $400/acre rent, but his neighbors would. So when a family member offered him $300/acre, he rented it to the neighbor.
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I understand that money is money, but the irony is striking when I converse with a farm couple who has 800 acres paid for, and they can tell stories about opportunities and a few breaks they got along the way to get started. Then for some reason when the opportunity is in front of them to help the next generation they end up contributing to the problem they don’t like rather than sacrificing a little to be part of the solution.

Again, this isn’t a judgment on the size of farm operation, because how is that defined? Is “big” anyone who has more than you? The point is that we often have the opportunity to do something about ”it” rather than complain about “it.” Whatever “it” is.

Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or friesen@farmestate.com.