cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

I guess it`s the age old question that even our grandparents heard "How ya gonna keep `em down on the farm?".   Most women don`t like rural life, they don`t like the isolation and dust, and boys go where the girls are and that`s the bright lights and big city. 

 

Unless someone has a vested interest in agriculture, it`s easy to see why they aren`t all that excited to see corn and beans as far as the eye can see and the whisp of hog manure in the air.  The 2,000 pop. towns roll up the streets at 10 pm ...I like all that, but I`m a old boring guy  Smiley Happy

 

 

But as tractors drive themselves and farms get bigger, less support businesses are needed it`s easy to see these "1 horse towns" will have the young people scrambling to find that 1 horse and ride out of the town for more opportunities.

 

With some computer type work, i imagine someone could do their "city work" and l i v e  in the country, but you have to have mountains or a beach to hold their interest.

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

I feel that, at least with some farmers, there is this tendency to think that if they haven't got a related heir to their operation, it is some sign of failure.  In fact, the concentration of agriculture has been progressing since bwefore our nation began, and the war machinery of WW II particularly left us with a need for fewer farmers (mechanization and pesticides, mostly developed for the war effort), while there was a corresponding call for factory workers, mostly in cities.

 

This one lands a lot on the luck of the draw, too.  You may have worked your tail off, not had great timing on your side, and had a struggle, not much to hold your kids close to home.  The guy down the road may have hit the jackpot these past five years, at a different age or stage of life...before his kids got grown and gone. 

 

Historically, a culture has been deemed more progressed as its agricultural sector shrank, in terms of how many people it took to man it.  The current locavore trend may or may not be a significant reversal of that ...flash in the pan, or permanent adjustment to industrialized agriculture? 

 

It intrigues me that the easier it becomes to have cultural and social connections further from the city itself, the less people seem to appreciate that you can reside in the sticks, yet still enjoy a lot of cosmopolitan amenities here.  Satellites, cell phones, amazon and other comprehensive websites that provide almost everything you could want or need, even distance medicine practices...I cannot imagine a reason to move to town. 

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Veteran Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

If none of our kids want ot come back to the farm, we don't have a problem helping another young family work into the business.  In fact we have a young family man working for us now who we would love to help get started.  Which leads to another question.  Is now the time?  It looks like the bloom is off the rose for crops, and with cattle?  Cows seem very high, makes me wonder if they can or will go higher, or even maintain these levels.  I hate to see someone get in at the top and try to pay off cows with falling calf and feeder prices.  Is it wise to try to "time" ones entry?  Is it even possible?  We're in and feel like we can withstand a downturn, but is now the time to bring someone else on board? 

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

I think if we in farming have employees right now, and can hang onto them for the next few years, that may beat trying to " bring them in."
0 Kudos
Highlighted
Senior Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

Clayton, I feel entering the cattle business can be profitable if one doesn't go into debt up front. If 10 head/pair is all you can afford to pay cash for at first, then enter on a smaller scale. Someone can't make a living from 10 head I know, but it is a start. Begin debt f ree and grow the business debt f ree and things won't be near as stressful. There is no rule that says you need to be rule of the roost by year three. 10 paid for head are worth just as much to you as 100 head that are 90% leveraged. Just saying.
0 Kudos
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

The ten head are better, if you account for operating expenses. People often forget that they build in huge ongoing costs...many startups fail when they are " too successful". Better to match your herd gradually to your grass supply, build a drought and winter store and stockpile of forages, and wait to claim the title of Cattle Baron.
0 Kudos
Highlighted

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

Once upon a time, way back in the mid-1990s, I graduated in a class of 62 people and immediately left a family farm. It was a medium-sized, successful farm, and by 'successful' I mean 'surviving,' but as you know that's something. I liked it. All of it. I liked where I grew up, 2 miles from pavement and 20 miles from a hometown that had a Pizza Hut and a stop light. I liked farming. I learned to drive a tractor on my grandpa's lap. My parents were both great and supportive. I wasn't a latch-key kid or raised by a nanny. My mom stayed at home. And still I left.

 

A lot of the comments on this thread have talked about a preference between small-town and metropolitan life, but as a teenager I didn't know my preference. I certainly wanted to find out though. Within 10 years, I'd discovered I was a decent writer and was making $30 an hour to watch college football games. I'd lived in Chicago, Alabama, Wisconsin, California, and seen most of the country.

 

I think the difficulty in keeping youth in farming communities has less to do with any toxicity or apathy, and more to do with a lot of sparkly options out there. I wanted to see the places I'd read about. I wanted to meet women I hadn't known since kindergarten. I don't care how great your community is, that's a lot to compete with. For all sorts of obvious reasons, the options are considerably more visible and accessible than they were for my grandparents. With basically no planning, I recently flew to Santa Rosa, Calif., for a long weekend. I don't think that happened in the '50s.

 

Whenever these kinds of conversations come up -- and they come up a lot because I returned to the family farm in 2012 and people are always asking why -- it seems like the theme leans towards 'what's wrong with today's youth?' But I ran the Boston Marathon. I mean, along the way I met people who loved running and they inspired me and I eventually ran the Boston Marathon. I would have never done that if I'd have stayed in my hometown and farmed. How do you discourage a young person from searching because there is so much out there to see and learn?

 

And the real dilemma (besides the fact that land and equipment prices make starting a farm all but impossible) is that the same people who you want to stay in your community and farm today are the same people who will most be drawn to all those possibilities in the world. The inspired. The driven. The technology savvy.

 

Another thing I was keenly aware of as a teenager, as Paul Harvey says in his famous 'God Made a Farmer' talk, is farming is not a career. It is all day, all year, all life. I watched my mother sacrifice a social life and my dad drive a sprayer all night to not thinking about the bills. I'd seen pictures of 45-year-old dairy farmers with lines in their faces so deep you'd swear it had to be meth-related. No, if you don't grow up around agriculture you probably aren't going to appreciate it or pursue it, but seeing it first hand doesn't necessarily lead a person there either.

 

The best a community can do, I think, is simply strive to be a place you'd want to live if you were young. A place that is open to ideas and change and diversity, a place that creates entertainment instead of whining about how there's nothing to do. A place where the good and motivational people in the community get involved. And then of course you're still going to lose some of those youth. It's inevitable. But maybe you attract a few from somewhere else, out there seeing what the world has to offer.

 

My name is Matt. I'm 37. And I came back.

Highlighted
Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

Welcome back, Matt!

 

I appreciate your thoughts about the community, toxicity and apathy.  Yes, there's a lot out there that we in smaller communities cannot compete with. 

 

As the originator of this thread, I understand where you've been and what you are thinking.  My oldest son is your age. He is one of those who we would want to stay, yet has lived and gained much knowledge and experience by leaving.  I hope one day that he makes the decision to return and bring his knowledge and passion back to the farm.

 

That said, as we advance in technology and ability to work practically anywhere we want while yet pursuing interests and careers wherever it takes us, we in agriculture are not publicizing the tremendous need for professionals in every segment of agriculture, from production ag to researchers, geneticists, biologists, engineers and many professions inbetween. 

 

Right now, even not counting the future potential, agriculture employes over 21 million in all facets of the industry.  With only 2 million farms and their families working on the farm, that's a big number that works in allied industries that makes up the entire infrastructure of agriculture.

 

You may still see the need for those that sacrificed their own lives for the sake of agriculture like your parents did, as well as many others, yet the opportunities for ag now moves beyond that basic idea. 

 

Thanks again for contributing to the discussion. 

 

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

much appreciated Matt.

 

It is the most difficult issue in farming.  Encouraging our youth to go and learn and do.  Knowing they are prized recruits to most everyone else.

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Contributor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

Matt - your remarks about this thread hit me hard. Farming parents do their best to encourage their young adults to fulfill the dreams they long to discover. My son is your age, went to college- ag. mechanics, ag business, degree, worked off the farm for 3 years, came back to dairy with us. Our dream come true has been a nightmare to pay for. We did all the CORRECT planning, consultants, pricing variables ETC ETC. We had to invest heavily to modernize our milking facility, bought larger used equipment, had to refinance in 2009 - dairy pricing --debt structure would have been ok -except for the price of milk falling out in 2006. . We have had our balls to the wall the last  8 years and I hate to see my son NOT having anytime off.. Perhaps it is the size we are, perhaps it is competition from the larger dairies in our area, he is very competent -- he could earn way more  in wages working for one of the larger dairies.  They would die to have him for an employee.

 

As we head into 2014, there will changes, there is no more pencil to sharpen as the lender refers to. With the correct guidance, financial planning,etc. my son will be able to continue farming --- but not a dairy farmer. There has always been Plan B - it needs to address legal issues,financial and emotional needs of all participants.

 

Best of luck and congratulations to you Farmer Matt!!! Your family is fortunate, your community is lucky --- with the right planning you will be able to have those cherished week-ends away.

 

Darlene

0 Kudos