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Grooming farm kids to be farmers

Elaine Froese Published on 20 November 2012

A farmer commented about how each year he is amazed how the seed plunked in the ground comes up in a beautiful carpet of green.

He recalled the day that his then-3-year-old son was digging in the dirt with his dad, and he “got it” that the seeds were sprouting to turn into a grain crop.

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Grooming farm kids to be farmers is an art. You don’t want them to be pressured to follow your footsteps – and you do want them to be safe as they tag along with you or start to do chores at a young age.

As you go to agricultural fairs and watch the horse and cattle shows, learn from the grooming you see taking place there.

Intentional time – No one shows up at the fair unprepared. They have all the sprays, combs, ribbons and tack ready to go.

They have worked hard for months to train the animals to respond to their gentle commands. What conversations have you and your spouse had privately about the ways you want to train your children to appreciate agriculture as a career?

Is there positive talk about marketing at the table? Is there a forum for regular business meetings to assign job descriptions and learn about the cash flow cycle demands on a farm?

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If all a child hears is “we can’t afford to do that” or “Dad doesn’t have time to play,” pretty soon the mould is set and the child sees that they won’t have any fun if they choose to farm.

Fun and friendship – These are big factors, especially to the new generation of young farmers.

As a farm coach, I’ve had 30-something young farm dads tell me that they are choosing very clearly to have fun along the way and be friends to their kids, besides mentors.

These young farmers with workaholic dads and moms are choosing a different way to groom their offspring.

Patience – This is part of grooming and leading cattle. I think the same goes for training the next generation to farm safely and with good work habits.

We have practiced good habits to enforce safety, but even so, our teenage son did rip down some hydro wires with a raised truck box one harvest when he was in a hurry.

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There is a dance that we do as farm parents, in allowing kids to stretch their skills and still keep them safe. Some young families have fenced a portion of the backyard for the toddlers and others let the young ones ride on the big machines.

Take your family to a farm safety event and let them hear it from another guide. Practice common sense and check your attitude about safety.

If everyone treats each other with respect and uses good communication, you are well on your way to the prize. Lots of things go wrong when people are irritated, lacking sleep and angry.

You won’t see cowboys or cow leaders being cruel to their prize fair entries. Patience in leading, training and mentoring is a given if you want your kids to grow up to be farmers. What about passion and purpose as an ag producer?

Purpose – Why are you in agriculture? Why do horse and cattle breeders spend so much time preparing for the show? They are passionate about what they do.

At our farm I check in on my hubby to see if he still is passionate about what he does. He works very hard and makes many decisions each day.

We decided that our son needed to own some of the work, so five springs ago he planted his first quarter.

He was blessed with a decent canola crop and marketed some for top dollar. This was a learning experience when his dad also started working with him on the accounting of his expenses and income.

If your purpose is to have a profitable career and pass your management skills and insights on to your children, that is honourable.

If you think your children will work as hard as you do, you might be in for a surprise – because as a coach, many young farmers have told me, “I want a life!”

The people at the fair usually make showing a family event and use it as a form of fun and recreation. I hope you are having some fun farming and can lighten up to spend some time mentoring your kids in a way they will feel free to make the career choice they are passionate about.

We have given our son a timeline of seven years to get educated, work for other managers, go to flight school and agriculture school and do lots of traveling.

Our purpose is to have a target for when we need to know what he feels his life purpose is and if that is farming, our management decisions will align with his. If not, we will make changes.

I’ve had farm kids who don’t want to be the fourth generation on the farm and their parents really know that in their hearts – but find it difficult to talk about.

When the purposes of the generations are not aligned, you might want to have a facilitator help you run a family meeting to talk it through, let go and shoot for new goals.

The prize – What kind of reward are you hoping for? Some people want the legacy of the family name to carry on to the next generation.

Some people want the financial security of knowing their adult children are great managers and will keep the parents’ aging years financially secure.

For some the reward is a good day’s work, three meals and a bed. They have not great wants and they are content with the returns of an operation with manageable debt and rich relationships.

Grooming young farmers requires intentional time, patience, purpose and the prize.  PD

Elaine Froese coaches farm families to be intentional about great choices for planning for change. Click here to learn more or call (866) 848-8311.

PHOTO
What kind of reward are you hoping for? Some people want the legacy of the family name to carry on to the next generation. Some people want the financial security of knowing their adult children are great managers and will keep the parents’ aging years financially secure. Photo courtesy of PD staff.

Elaine Froese

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