Have you ever had the thought that if my parents were full time farmers then I could be one too? I have, and wow, was I wrong. Like everything else in life, it’s just not that simple.
Generational farmers love the farming life as deep as any of us because they grew up in it. But growing up in it creates a whole bunch of stresses and challenges that the rest of us do not deal with.
They understand the reality that 2 or 3 bad decisions could lead to the loss of a lifestyle that took generations to build. And they have the added pressure of not wanting to be the generation that lost or had to sell the families land and legacy.
Generational farmers are not sitting on the porch, watching the corn grow. They are hustling to make sure they can weather the storms and preserve the family tradition.
Generational farmers who have gone “all in” are constantly busy and working long hours. In addition to the normal work of planting, cultivating, irrigating, spraying, feeding, vaccinating, harvesting, etc., they are innovating.
If you don’t find them on a tractor or in a feed truck you will find them behind a computer, talking with other farmers or setting up deals. Today’s generational farmer is always creating additional streams of revenue to guard against low commodity prices, high input costs and equipment breakdowns.
Generational farmers who have the benefit of hearing farming stories from their grandparents and parents understand just how fragile this lifestyle can be. And they also understand that just growing crops or raising livestock is not enough.
Today’s generational farmer is selling seed to their neighbors as a side hustle. They are pulling soil samples and providing consultation to other farmers when they are not in their own fields. They are investing in drones and bringing that technology to their region. They are custom farming when they are done with, or maybe before, the work is finished at their place.
Today’s generational farmer has 2 or 3 side hustles going so they can lease more acres, buy better equipment and put money away to get them through the lean times that would normally bankrupt smaller fams.
Generational farmers have a drive to carry on their families farming legacy and the passion to make their living from the Earth. The weight of their ancestors that farmed before them pushes them to innovate and never stop looking for a way to succeed.
I interview generational farmers from all over the United States, and this is true everywhere. In the recent weeks I have interviewed three who are doing exactly what I am describing:
- Mark Hewitt – Minnesota (episode #408)
- Megan Dwyer – Illinois (episode #402)
- Matt Kellog – Illinois (episode #396)
All three of these farmers are growing corn and soybeans in a very traditional sense. They are also looking for other niches to help them sustain their business. And they are all selling seed, doing crop consultation and either selling equipment or providing other services to make sure that a bad year does not end their family tradition.
If you think farming is easier for those who have family that can pass down land or lend out equipment, think again.
Those of us starting from scratch are subject to a lot less social pressure. Nobody expects us to succeed. If we fail, people will talk about how hard it is for a “young person” to get into farming. But if you are a generational farmer and you fail, people will say you squandered what your family had built. You let down the generations that came before you. And others think, “if I’d have had those advantages I would have made it work”.
When a new farmer wins, we are looked at as being brilliant for finding a way. But, if a generational farmer succeeds people will think it is because of what they started off with, not how hard they worked once they took over.
Are you still jealous of generational farmers?