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February 2013 Archive for Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

Competition for Farm Employees

Feb 27, 2013

Row Crop   Microsoft clipart photoFrom Legacy Moment (02/22/2013).
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Have you been wondering why your son or daughter won't come home to work on the family farm? Check with your friendly ag supplier. When the farm economy is booming, so too are the companies that supply farmers and provide equipment. The title of a recent Wall Street Journal article tells the story. In "Farm Boom Sows Jobs Bounty," the authors gush over the job opportunities generated in the agricultural sector.
What the article doesn't say is that Dow Chemical, John Deere or Cargill might be your biggest competitor for help on the farm. So, while undergraduate enrollment in agricultural programs is increasing (up 20% nationally from 2006 to 2011), the number of graduates returning to the family farm is decreasing (less than 10% of the Purdue University class of 2012). All of this might speak to the need for a more business-like structure on the farm. Young professionals want to know there's a career track to follow.
When you're competing with some of America's biggest companies, you might have to do things differently than you have in the past to attract the best. Today, graduates are not only being offered competitive salaries and full benefits, but they might also receive signing bonuses and advanced job placement. As soon as they walk in the door, they'll be enrolled in training programs and leadership development, and hear about promotional opportunities and a whole slate of assignment options.
This might put the family farm in an awkward position. Though lifestyle is important, it might not be enough. As per examples across the corporate landscape, using proven business tools to manage the operation is necessary. Managers of the family farm might be well advised to:
• Employ job descriptions and define responsibilities.
• Define pay scales, bonus structures and benefits.
• Implement a performance review system for accountability.
• Encourage professional development for career growth.
• Chart a path to ownership or at least to increasing opportunities.
Your competitors are motivated. Not only do these companies need to expand to meet the growing demand but, like on the farm, an aging workforce is challenging companies to plan their succession. Not unlike the family farmer, the success or failure of a company's succession plan is a matter of survival. Every organization needs a well-prepared next generation to lead.

News & Resources for You:

'Farm Boom Sows Jobs Bounty' (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14, 2013).
Establishing a family employment policy helps to instill a business-like environment for all family members participating in the business.
What if your college grad opts for off-farm employment? Could that be the best training ground?


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Communication Among the Ages

Feb 19, 2013

Fotolia Farm RoadFrom Legacy Moment (02/15/2013).
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Recently, I was asked, "What advice would you give a mature farmer (62 and older) to enhance communication with the younger generations, and vice versa?"

My response applies to all three generations—senior, middle and younger.

It is the responsibility of each generation to better understand and then empathize with the other generations involved in the conversation. The following quick thoughts might help in these situations:

  • Listen to learn. In our workshops, we do a leadership development exercise that is usually eye-opening for everyone. We break into groups by generation. Then the audience shares ideas about what each generation needs from the others and what each generation offers. The older generation almost always offers capital, land and experience—the exact three needs of the younger generation. On the surface this might not sound amazing, but outside of the workshop, this conversation might never happen. In the safe atmosphere of the workshop, we can have a constructive discussion based on the wants/needs of each other.

  • Allow others to surprise and inspire you. You're not as good as you think you are, and neither are they. Reining in the ego and allowing room for others to perform will generate surprising results. I never tire of seeing the youth and enthusiasm of a young producer or an aspiring farmer. And the common sense and wisdom of a long-time producer is oftentimes amazingly clear. Participating in a conversation, working side-by-side or solving a common problem is always more refreshing with an open mind.

  • Make allowances. Nobody is born perfect, including you. Allow others to make mistakes, to err and to misjudge. Though it is more painful, more expensive and more time-consuming, an error can sometimes be the best teacher. Making a mistake is certainly one way to reinforce the learning opportunity in a situation. We all make mistakes, and if we're growing an operation and trying new things we'll continue to make mistakes; it's part of the trial-and-error process in learning efficiencies and testing effectiveness.

News & Resources for You:

Meet a three-generation farm family who exemplify working together in an effective (but no less loving) way.

Your success depends on the quality and the quantity of communication within the family.

Have you enrolled in a Legacy Project Workshop? Our March tour includes stops in Ames, Iowa; Dubuque, Iowa; Mankato, Minn.; and Sioux Falls, S.D. 


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God Made a Farmer

Feb 11, 2013

iStock Farmers HandshakeFrom Legacy Moment (02/08/2013).
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"...when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does."

A person doesn't have to be a farmer to want to buy a Dodge after seeing Chrysler's Super Bowl ad. In my house there wasn't a dry eye, and the sentiments that followed were a heartfelt tribute to you, the American Farmer. For two minutes the world was allowed to peer into the soul of our ag community, to feel the sense of purpose and enjoy, even if only vicariously, the character of a farmer.

As I watched proudly and listened to Paul Harvey's closing comments, I knew he understood, even way back in 1978, the importance of succession. Today, more than ever, we need to be mindful of the necessity for planning, the challenges that might prevent us from taking action and the resources available for helping to achieve our legacy dreams. "Doing what dad does" is a lot more than the closing line in a well-written editorial.

Farmers lead with traits that include independence and self-reliance, resilience and dedication, industry and passion. American farmers are professionals dedicated to providing healthy food choices for all. If you believe as I do, that once these qualities are gone, we're never going to get them back, then we shoulder a huge obligation to lead by preparing the next generation.

What better way to celebrate your heritage and punctuate your life than making sure there is a next generation of American Farmers? We hope you pass it on...

News & Resources for You:

God Made a Farmer (Dodge Ram Super Bowl Ad, January 2013)

Know that you possess a 'golden egg' of good fortune, prosperity and an abundance of unquantifiable values.

Ensure the endurance of your farming lifestyle: Turn intentions into goals; goals into actions; and actions into results. 

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Who Benefits More - Protégé or Mentor?

Feb 05, 2013

Father and Son Ranchers   South Dakota   NRCSFrom Legacy Moment (02/01/2013).
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Both protégés and mentors stand to gain from their relationship. The depth of value comes from your commitment to the relationship. The opportunity to openly share your hard-earned perspectives with another person is priceless. It doesn't matter whether you play the mentor or protégé role. The chance to visit someone on a regular basis who has different experiences and insights might prove to be:
Immeasurable: It might take years to fully grasp the worth of a mentor/protégé relationship. There is untold value in having someone listen, reflect and offer feedback. It's reassuring to know another person cares about what you have to offer. It's motivating to realize someone is interested in your progress and dedicated to helping you become the best you can be.
Enduring: Advice and counsel from the best mentor/protégé relationships continue long after the association has passed. Just ask any airplane pilot. He'll tell you, in detail, that he still hears his instructor's voice offering guidance, though his wings were awarded decades before.
Proven: Due to the age differences in most mentor/protégé relationships, counsel can be timeless. The guidance you'll receive is just as applicable today as it will be in the future. With complementary experiences and histories that aren't necessarily aligned, mentors and protégés can share insights from a depth and breadth of knowledge.
Though you might assume that mentors gain from the teaching experience and protégés gain from learning, the reverse is also true. In many situations roles swap, as the protégé becomes the teacher and the mentor becomes the student. A mentoring relationship can be about giving as well as receiving.
So, who benefits more? That's one argument that never has to happen.

News & Resources for You:

Read more about The Often Overlooked but Invaluable Benefits of Mentorship (John Kotter for "Forbes," Jan. 20, 2013)

This Indiana family has established a successful mentor/protégé relationship based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

How will you begin the conversation with a potential mentor? 
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 Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.
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