The old-school linear rule of life states that “if you just work harder, you will get ahead.” The new reality for agriculture’s next generation of managers is, “How do we find and use the best practices to work smart and be profitable?”
Respected ag consultant Dick Wittman quips, “What worked for the older generation of farmers, will not be what works for the next generation’s management challenges of global agriculture.”
How is this impacting young farmers?
They need to embrace lifelong longing to gain the skills to be great managers. The sad news is that some founding fathers are “not allowing” the younger backs of the next generation to leave the farm for training seminars, or the opportunity to get networking with peers and enhance skills for the farm. The fathers want their sons to provide labour, and are not keen on letting them go, even for short times of inspiration and skill building. How do you change this attitude? You have some courageous conversations and replace your labour while you let the people go.
“Dad, tell me why you have such a hard time letting me leave the farm for education. Don’t you think it will be a huge benefit if I get some better management skills?”
Be clear about your commitment to follow through with the learning, and not just leave the farm to party hardy with your peers. Report back to your farm team as to your key learnings, and the contacts you made. Show Dad the new business strategy and vision you have for the farm. If Dad says, “It’s my way or the highway,” then you have bigger issues to deal with. Conflicting visions for the farm are not going to help grow a successful business.
Keep track of your work hours, and talk about what is a reasonable expectation for time off to learn. I am sad for the young farmers who are putting in long hours without reasonable break times. Your body is not a machine, and burnout hurts everyone.
Apply for the Growing Forward 2 young farmer rebates, if they become available in your province, so that money is not the barrier to learning. You are spending lots of precious input dollars, but how much are you allocating to bettering your management? Time with the pencil saves more money than back labour does on many days.
Ask your lender about the learning credits they are requiring for their loan process compliance. In Manitoba, young farmers who carry MASC land mortgages, do a series of learning projects from webinars, courses and specially approved seminars.
Cedric MacLeod has been crossing the Prairies over the past two winters to provide best management practices for young farmers. You might want to give him a call at 1-506-260-0872 or send him an email to [email protected] or [email protected] This winter he is working in Alberta, Manitoba and the Maritimes.
He is also a big influencer in the Canadian Young Farmer’s Forum (www.cyff.ca), another great group for young farmers to network and grow their skills. They are having a national conference in Ottawa on March 1 to 5, and succession planning is on the agenda.
In coaching we talk about things you need to “unlearn” as well as learn or “take on.” Dad needs to “unlearn” stubbornness in letting the next generation go for more training, and it would be great if both generations would go together.
The winter months seem suited to doing planning, thinking and innovating for the next seasons on our farms, but are we really being intentional about our learning plans?
Perhaps your family needs what Patrick Lencioni calls a “rallying cry” for the next three months. For March, April and May, what do you really need to learn and accomplish?
Are you ready to pay your taxes, and are your farm books up to date?
Would 15 minutes a day help you do a better job of your social media networking?
Would 15 minutes a day mind mapping what you want from each of your roles for self-care, marriage, family, farm, friends and community give you peace of mind that you were living an intentional life, and not just being a slave to the farm monster?
Time and capacity to fulfil expectations are a big deal for young and older farmers alike.
Pause. Think. Write.
Come up with a learning plan that works for you. Dad, let your sons and daughters go back to school for courses and experiences that are going to benefit all of the farm’s growth and success. If you want to have better family fights, do that webinar on my home page at www.elainefroese.com.
Great learning is worth fighting for. †