On most farms it is common for children to ride along with Mom or Dad in the combine or tractor.
I have fond memories of riding the tractor sitting on a stool beside my dad.
Intended or not, this is the beginning of the training program that will turn your children into farmers, and it’s a model that can be extended to make sure they know everything they need to know, including farm management, to be as successful as you’ve been.
The benefit of farming as a business is that it allows children to be part of the farm and learn about it at an early age.
They have accumulated hundreds of ride-along hours by the time they graduate from high school, and in the process have learned important skills.
They may already be taking on important roles on the farm before they head off to college, such as operating equipment and handling livestock.
This hands-on teaching method is effective at transferring necessary skills.
The other benefit of a ride-along approach is that mentorship happens over a relatively long time so there is lots of opportunity for feedback and development.
So how does the ride-along apply to farm management?
The same principles can be used to develop a similar mentorship program to adequately train the next generation to manage a farming operation.
Here are three tips to help get your ride-along started.
Your children should be exposed to the business side as early as possible if you expect them to take over complete management of the farm.
I am not suggesting that you bring your eight-year-old to a meeting with your accountant, but if your children are interested in taking over the business, they should start to attend these meetings as soon as they are working on the farm full time.
The purpose is to expose them to the business side of farming.
This may seem simple enough, but in many farm families I meet, the children have been working on the farm for more than five years and want to take over the business but have never seen the farm’s financial statements.
Just as important as bringing them along is having an understanding of the desirable outcome.
For example, the next time you attend a trade show, take a list of information you want to acquire at the show.
Items may include a stop at your grain buyer to see if it is offering a show special for fall crop bookings or information on a new piece of equipment.
With this plan, you can involve your children in the discussion process and create an opportunity for them to learn.
Did I mention it was important to bring them along? Sometimes people don’t, especially if the farm is struggling financially because they don’t want their children to know how bad things are.
In the same way your children were alongside you in the field fighting the mud or combining in a drought, they need to be with you to learn about the business, no matter what.
It helps them understand why decisions are made and provides you with a different perspective.
If they are involved in solving the problem, they will also be more determined to make the solution work.
It may seem strange to begin with, but taking the time to explain the importance of the business side of farming to your children, and then having them ride along with you, will provide the best chance for them to succeed and for you to have a long and successful retirement.