I was reminded this week of a topic that we get asked about on a fairly regular basis...do we think our kids will carry on with the farm when they grow up?
I follow Sandi Brock~ Sheepishly Me, on Instagram, and interestingly enough, she mentioned this exact thing last week in one of her posts. We have a very similar take on this question.
Steve has always said that he would LOVE it if he had the opportunity to work with his adult children running the farm operation in the future. Whenever we do any business planning it is something that is definitely in the back of our minds. However, it is not something that we pressure any of them into. Our hope & desire for each of the four of them, is to have happy, healthy careers doing WHATEVER they love.
While there are many positives about working together on the farm, which we have experienced already… working together as a family on a farm every.single.day is not always sunshine and rainbows. It is hard. It can be a major source of stress, heartache, disappointment and upset. As with anything, there are highs and lows. Over the last handful of years, we have learned many things about working with family, lot’s of amazing eye-opening lessons. One of the biggest take-away’s for us from the parenting aspect, has been the idea that our children should gain experience working for someone other then ourselves for a period of time. This isn’t something we came up with on our own. After many, many conversations with other farming families, those that have went before us and have lived/experienced it, we realize the value in this.
It can be very hard to separate the line between parent/child, and employer/employee. It can be hard to leave the “workplace” at the workplace, when the workplace is at home. Expectations on both sides can be on opposite sides of the spectrum. The gains to seeking employment away from the farm can be such a character building experience. It’s good to work for different personalities, to see what you can work with and what you can’t. Learning how to problem solve, and deal with conflict when it isn’t your parent can be a very different thing sometimes. Starting at the bottom and working your way up the ladder, rather then starting at the top of the ladder builds strength, character, integrity, work ethic, drive, ambition, etc.
Steve was able to see the benefit of working elsewhere before coming home to farm full time. It gives you a whole new perspective and appreciation for what you have the opportunity to do, and perhaps not such a sense of entitlement in some cases.
The farming industry has changed so much, there are so many streams involved anymore. At times it can be tough, or pretty much impossible to keep up with the changing trends, markets, skill sets. Having a degree or diploma in something can be such an asset to the family farm, as well as an option to fall back on or go along with farming, should it be your career of choice.
With that being said, there are so many professions, and careers in the world today. Is it our expectation that the kids will all choose to stay put....no it’s not. Farming can’t just be a “paycheque”, it has to be a “passion”. It will never pay off if your heart isn’t in it, and it will never pay enough if you are just looking to bring home a pay cheque. It could be a miserable existence if you do it for the sake of your loved ones, and we don’t wish that on any of our children. Farming is a lifestyle, a way of life. It’s not a 9-5 job that you can disconnect from, walk away, and pick it back up the next morning.
We have had many conversations with the kids, spent many hours talking between the two of us about the future. It’s something we have agreed is 100% up to them to decide, and we have been very clear that we will support whatever decision they make. Steve didn’t start farming with the intention or goal of leaving it for his children, he got into farming because of a passion, and desire to PROVIDE for his children/family while doing what he loves. I have said it before and I will say it again, there are so many amazing advantages to raising a family on a farm, but we certainly are aware of the big, wide world out there. Life is to short to not love, enjoy and embrace what you want to do in life!
It’s a tough world we live in these days. So much pressure, so many options, so many decisions to be made. If the kids don’t farm, it won’t be the end of the world....just the end of an era. We cross that bridge when we come to it. If 1 or 2 of them want to farm, great! We support each one of them in their career paths.
One thing we know for sure...we are excited to see where God leads each one of them in this life!