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When I found out that I was going to be a father back in 2012, I had visions of getting a miniature version of myself that would love the outdoors and farming as much as I do. We would plan hunting trips, restore old tractors and work around the farm together.
When my daughter arrived in 2013, I bought her all the Carhartt clothes we could afford, picked out the best baby hiking gear, and gave her farm toys with the anticipation that she would love it all. And she did for a time — until she was old enough to form her own opinions.
I still try to maintain her interest with the theory that more exposure to these things (my hobbies) would show her how much fun they are. While hiking, I talk about how the trees grow so big, encourage her to listen for grouse and try to teach her about all the cool plants of the world. She often finds these things boring. To her, being outside is about finding cool bugs, picking out the best rocks, and collecting sticks and flowers to take home for crafts. It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy the outdoors; she just experiences and views it differently than I do.
The same goes for farming. I would love for her to grow up to have a career in agriculture, but I don’t think that is likely based on her interests. She is still young, and her views and experiences probably will change over time, but to suddenly find a passion for farming is unlikely. She probably always will enjoy the typical farm kid activities — making forts out of hay bales, snuggling barn kittens, looking for treasures — but she likely will never enjoy baling hay.
There is often a strong sentiment from the older generation that farm kids should take over the farming operation from their parents. This could be based in business continuity purposes, in sentimentality, due to a sense of obligation, or a million other reasons. Farm transitions can be incredibly challenging, but even more so when the next generation does not have the same passion for agriculture as the older generation. Communication is essential when discussing farm transition, and so is accepting that not every farm kid wants to be a farm adult.
It’s important for the older generation to be open to the fact that the younger generation may not want to farm at all or may want to farm, but in a different way. Starting these conversations early is important — gauging if they might have any interest in taking on the family farm even with a different business plan in mind — can save everyone from disappointment in the future.
It also can help the younger generation feel more empowered to think about whether a different version of the family farm might be right for them. And that, in turn, can help the older generation start planning for any necessary transitions now.
Not many current farmers are farming the way their parents, or grandparents, did. Markets, farming practices and individual preferences change over generations. Being adaptable to those changes will keep our farming community flourishing.
Submitted by Lee Beers, an Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator for OSU Extension – Trumbull County, can be reached by email.
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