A year ago we ran a post describing the grandparent wisdom you should never forget on the farm. This list of five things was very popular, even inspiring several additions to the list through reader emails, twitter and Facebook. All things are not golden though — it’s time to release the list of the things your grandparents told you about farm management that you really need to forget. Your grandparents had some great wisdom but some of their business principles may lead you down the wrong path in the 2010s.

1. Partnerships are bad. Independence is good – There was a time when independence was looked at as the key to success on the farm. Sharing equipment with a neighbour was impossible, joint ventures didn’t exist and the mantra of “we must go about it alone” was the only way. I think most of this stems from the concept we must be in control and not be under anyone else’s decision making thumb.  The one exception may have been barn building bees and helping each other out at harvest.

2. Work hard and things will work out – Your way out of everything is just plain old hard back labor. You don’t necessarily work smarter but you need to work harder. Think less and spend more time sweating. More sweat equals more money. Not so true anymore in the intellectual economy of today.

3. Paying tax is bad – There is a great chance that your Grandpa did everything in his power to not pay taxes. In fact Grandpa likely made some business decisions that were very short-sighted just to avoid paying taxes. Today the mind frame has changed to I want to pay minimal tax, but if I am paying tax it means I am making money.

4. You’ll be too busy for safety – Safety on Grandpa’s farm was more about just getting the job done.  To be fair the industry’s knowledge of product and equipment safety was quite low. Everyone has a story about grandpa mixing the sprayer tank with his arm, or how he was covered in seed treatment or how the old one tonne truck had no lights. It was just a different time.

Shaun and Kelvin discuss this list of seven things:

5. Holidays are for city folk. Work is first. Family comes second – There are farms all across North America that have never taken a holiday in the summer. There is no doubt that agriculture is intense in the summer but to not be able to find a week in that time period seems a little far fetched. Did you grow up in a house that didn’t take summer vacation as if it was some badge of hard-working honour?

6. If we are buying that tractor, we are paying for it with cash – There was a time that any debt was bad and you didn’t purchase anything unless you had enough cash under the mattress. If you followed these guidelines today I’m not sure you could even operate your farm. There is not enough working capital generated to make it work. Considering today’s low lending rates, there are likely opportunities that will be missed if following Grandpa’s cash-only rule.

7. Succession works on the farm the same way it works with royalty – Someone’s got to die to move forward. (Just as soon as the crop is seeded, sprayed, irrigated, harvested, we’ll get right on that.) The senior generation has a right to project its vision till death. “Everything and everyone is put on hold till I’m damn good and ready to give up the reins, and I’m not damn good and ready yet. But that’s OK, because I built this thing and you are really only a squatter. Even though you’ve spent your working life here, I built this.”

Grandma and grandpa deserve full credit for their legacies, for the many principles they instilled in our families. This list is not meant to be disrespectful to older generations in any way, but we have to understand the environment in which farms operate today is not the same as it was in the 60s or 70s.

Feel free to add to this list in the comment section below.

8 thoughts on “Please Forget These 7 Things Your Grandparents Taught You

  1. I disagree with point #6. My dad pounced “if you don’t have the cash to buy something,don’t buy it” And today I still work work that way and I don’t have to answer to anyone! I can sleep at night

    1. Clinton, fair comment although some form of borrowing with interest rates so low would be a reasonable practice. The idea was not to suggest load yourself up with debt.

  2. Just patch it up with second hand materials. It will last another 10 years. And then spend the time and effort and money on patching it up again to last another 5 years.
    Fix it right the first time with new materials. Totally replace the fence or buy a new hydraulic ram because then it will last another 40 years and it is then reliable and cost effective.

    1. I laughed when you read this because I have so many stories as a kid of patching things up. Maintenance costs just seemed to never be recognized. I have so many stories in this area. I remember when my grandfather would come home from the auction mart with pallets of old crap. Funny how so many farms have the same experiences.

  3. Who are we working for today? Big Iron Big Oil Big Chemical!!!!! Why are we building more CANCER Hospitals? Does it have anything to do with the FOOD we are eating today? I believe there is a link here that we are over looking!!!!!!! The connection that we have today with the URBAN population is a direct result of the mega farms that we have today!! BIGGER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER!!!!!!

    1. Wayne, that is exactly something my grandfather would say. He thought every farm should be 1000 acres, growing nothing but wheat, with no diversity in genetics, fertilizer, pest mgmt, or crop marketing strategy. And he did okay for himself…until his fear of change & science & technology ultimately led him to the poorhouse.

      1. Paul K, sorry I am not in the poor house!!!!!! Please explain where all the cancer is coming from? Could it be from all the poisons that you are putting on your crops? Science says there is a link!!!!!

  4. My grandfather retired from farming 8 years before I was even born. He never owned a tractor, farmed only with horses. He never imparted any farming knowledge to me. So perhaps it should be a list of; “Things Father Said That We Should, Perhaps, Forget” .

    No vacations is summer is my mantra not my ancestors. I hate vacations at any time of the year. Travel is one of the most exhausting things ever invented.
    I have never heard anyone spout the drivel in #7.
    #4 I now see other industries being smothered by “safety” regulations. The pendulum has swung far too much the other way.

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