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.