Bringing the next generation into agriculture

FFA Creed “with a faith not born of words but of deeds.”

Do you have key employees or family members that you would like to help enter the ag field?  When is the right time to involve them in the operation rather than just be manual labor?

Every young person that grows up on a farm enjoys the mechanical parts of production agriculture. Planting, harvesting, and smelling the fresh turned soil are all fond memories that we each enjoyed. Many times, this is where we stop sharing with the next generation or key employee. We short-change them by not letting them participate in the marketing or management decision of your agriculture operations.

The USDA and RMA have developed programs in the recent years that assist young producers with the transition. Improvements such as Beginning Farmer Rancher, increased county T-Yields and the expansion of the double crop program. What are ways we can help young people take advantage of these opportunities?

Hay supply has been short in our area this year, so it would be a natural progression to allow a key person to partner with you to plant an annual forage. The farmer could supply the equipment and the land in exchange for labor and marketing of the forage crop. This helps the key person learn the economics and management of an operation firsthand. They not only provide labor and capital, but also enjoy the financial returns from participating in an operation they can call their own. I have done this with my family as they became interested in farming.

If you are not in the livestock area this same approach can work equally as well with row crop. It was never plausible to carve out fields or provide a rental situation, so using the double cropping provisions seemed like the best option. I provided the equipment and the acres to be double cropped and my son provided the labor, fuel, repairs, and other input costs to plant and harvest a crop. This became a separate venture where my son was able to gain experience making management and marketing decisions.

By doing this, three things happened. First, he learned there was much more to farming than driving a tractor. He learned the costs of inputs, management challenges, and the returns that are associated with production ag. Secondly, he was also exposed to working with FSA programs and the need to use risk management products like crop insurance. Lastly, he developed his own yield history that can serve him in the future. Both he and I benefited in learning from each other.

This is the year we should  begin allowing the next generation to start the process of taking more ownership. With the new opportunities presented by USDA and RMA now is the time for young people to become involved in production agriculture. As current landowners and farmers we possess a unique ability to be the catalyst they need to get started.

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