Apr 17, 2014
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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.

Mentor-Protégé Relationship

Oct 17, 2012

Grain Rotation   USDA ARSFrom Legacy Moment (10/12/2012).
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Many preharvest crop decisions (such as the timing and extent of soil preparation, seeding and pest management) vary with local soil and weather conditions. Operators often learn through trial and error as much as through training, Extension service, and suppliers. Similarly, successful livestock enterprises require breeding, feeding, and culling savvy that improves with experience. Marketing decisions—when to sell, how much, to whom and under what kind of arrangement—also benefit from experience and new information. Moreover, the relevant experience is specific to a particular farm business (encompassing the commodities being produced, the services provided and the resources available to that business), which is why business age matters, and not simply the operator's age and personal experience."  

This passage, from an article titled "Experience Counts: Farm Business Survival in the U.S." in the April 2007 issue of USDA's Amber Waves publication, is possibly the best argument I've read for forging a mentor-protégé relationship. It reinforces the value of experience and emphasizes the true worth of tenured experience on a farm, raising the same crop and employing a given set of resources.

A young person intent on a farming career is well advised to gain as much specific experience as possible. There is no substitute for the wisdom that can be gleaned from working with an experienced operator.

To those just launching a career, I ask - Who do you confide in, and do they possess the specific skills and abilities necessary to help you grow the operation?

News & Resources for You: 

• Each generation involved in the operation has a role to play in its development.

• Meet two neighbors who have established an ideal mentor/protégé relationship, in this recent "Leave a Legacy TV" episode.

• Jump-start your succession plan with a Legacy Project Workshop. Sign up today for events in Amarillo, Salina or Denver. 

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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.
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