Why You Need the Next Generation
By Lance Woodbury, 09.16.2015

The average age of the US farmer is 58, and that means lots of farms are facing the succession challenge: the successful formal transfer of management (and ownership, in many cases) from one generation to the next. While the succession process is usually not easy and takes preparation, it is definitely worth it: bringing the next generation into the farm can bring a lot of real benefits to the family business:

Enthusiasm
Do you recall your feelings as you finished high school or college? You were eager to get started, open to tackling big challenges, willing to work long hours and excited about making a positive impact. Such youthful enthusiasm infuses an organization with energy, propelling high performance, quick responses, a willingness to take risks and the initiative to meet the demands of an uncertain and unpredictable business environment.

Evaluation
If you’ve been in business by yourself or with your siblings for very many years, you are accustomed to certain expectations about how the business should be managed. Your communication patterns, decision-making techniques, compensation and human resource tendencies – your way of doing things – is well established. Bringing new, younger generation perspectives into the business raises the (sometimes uncomfortable) question: Why do we do it this way? The opportunity to explore new stakeholders’ expectations for the business offers an opportunity to re-evaluate your culture and make improvements for the future.

Education
We are clearly at the dawn of a new day as it relates to agricultural technology on the farm. From seeds in the bag to sensors in the soil, from equipment in the field to imagery from the air, new ways to improve, understand, evaluate and make decisions for your business abound. While it takes the senior generation time, energy and attention to learn new technologies, the younger crowd – whatever their level of formal education – seems to be right at home in the digital age, easily and eagerly adapting to new tools. In many cases, technology plays a role in attracting younger farmers in the first place. Just like in any other industry, younger professionals look for opportunities to work with the latest technology to keep their skills evolving. Technology then helps retain these employees when you equip them with right tools to be more successful, and when these tools helps you make the way you manage your operation its biggest strength.

The next generation has a lot to learn. But they also have a lot to contribute. Capture the benefits of a successful generational transition – after all, this is what you’ve worked for all these years.

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