Farm Management Minute: Fall flat on my what?
April 21, 2016
Back in the good ol' days, (probably 2013) I recall having a conversation with a farmer who was in his 60s. He was telling me how his son's generation was completely out of control with their spending. This included machinery purchases, family living, high priced land, etc. What he said next nearly floored me, he said "I would like nothing more than to see him fall flat on his face one of these years!"
Luckily, he added one additional line which softened the statement a bit. He said, "I don't want it to be so bad that he can't farm anymore, but bad enough to put the fear in him to make better decisions." I wish I remembered who I had this conversation with so I could follow up to see how things are going, but I am guessing that the humbling has happened and I am very curious if the younger farmer is still around to make some adjustments.
There has definitely been a generational gap between the '80s survivors who tended to operate more conservatively during the recent prosperity while their children's generation was more on the aggressive side. Regardless which group you were in or how you operated during these times, there is still wisdom that can be gleaned from this. As you know, wisdom is knowledge and good judgement gained over time through experience and this can come from both good and bad experiences.
The producers who are under 40 likely tend to discount their parents' advice because "times were different when you were farming, Dad!". But I disagree, you need to listen when your parents or grandparents offer their wisdom to you, because times are not as different as you think they are. A few pieces of advice you have probably heard, but need to start taking to heart may include: err to the conservative side in your decision making, limit unnecessary expenditures, it is ok to borrow money, but be very cautious not to borrow too much that you have no chance of paying back, don't let your off-farm spending get out of hand, and stay diversified.
And probably the best piece of wisdom that they can share is to remember your priorities. Remember why you got into farming in the first place. It is not an easy life and the rewards can't always be quantified on the balance sheet but hopefully the rewards outweigh the headaches. As farmers and ranchers, you get the opportunity to work every day with family members, serve your communities, and produce food for the world. Do not forget this. And remember the decisions you make during both the good times and bad will affect yours and the next generation's ability to continue this proud tradition.
We have a team of instructors at Mitchell Tech dedicated to working with farmers each day to help you make better decisions. If you would like to learn more about what we can do to help you, please contact us at 995-3098 or http://www.sdcfrm.com.