Multigenerational farm family sitting by a tractor.

Mentoring and transition starts in the farm management buddy seat

Mentoring and transition starts in the farm management buddy seat

Synopsis
2 Minute Read

The ride-a-long or farm management buddy seat is essentially a mentorship program to adequately train the next generation in the areas of farm business management – so you can leave a lasting legacy on your terms.

Farm Management Consultant

Most modern farm equipment contains an extra seat, known as the buddy seat. This seat is often occupied by a child or teen riding along with their mom or dad, properly strapped in, and keenly interested in what’s going on. Many of my fond childhood memories are riding in this seat beside my dad. Whether it is the intention or not, this is the beginning of the training program that will turn your kids into farm operators.

I remember vividly to this day the first time my dad switched seats with me and trusted me to drive the tractor and seeder, eventually leaving me to operate it on my own. The benefit of farming as a business is that it allows children many hours of observation time over many years. By the time they graduate from high school they have accumulated hundreds of ride-along hours, and in the process have learned important skills. They may already be taking on important roles on the farm, operating equipment, handling livestock, etc. before they head off to college.

This hands-on teaching method is very effective at transferring necessary skills. With a mere switching of seats, the learning changes to mentorship and gives lots of opportunities for feedback and development over a long period of time.

So how does the ride-along apply to farm management? The same principles can be used to develop a similar mentorship program to adequately train the next generation in the areas of farm business management. Below are three points to help develop and fully utilize your farm management buddy seat.

1. Bring them along

If you expect your kids to take over the complete management of the farm business, they should be exposed as early as possible to areas of the farm business. Now I am not suggesting that you bring your eight-year-old to the meeting with your accountant, but if your kids are interested in taking over the business, they should certainly start to attend these meetings as soon as they are working on the farm full-time. The purpose is to begin exposing them to the business side of farming. This may seem simple enough, but there are many farms that I meet with where the kids have been working on the farm for more than five years, want to take over the farm business, but have never seen the farm’s financial statements.

2. Have a plan

Just as important as bringing them along is understanding a desirable outcome. For the next trade show you attend, go with a list of information you need to have before you leave. It may be a stop at your grain buyer to see if they are offering a show special for fall crop bookings or some information on a new piece of equipment. If you have a plan, it involves your kids in the discussion process and you get something out of the time spent.

3. Bring them along no matter what

Did I mention it was important to bring them along? A common excuse, especially if the farm is struggling financially, is that you don’t want your kids to know how bad things are. In the same way, your kids were alongside you in the field fighting the mud or combining in a drought, they need to be with you learning about the business no matter what. It helps them understand why decisions are made and provides you with a different perspective on the problem. If they are involved in solving the problem, they will be more determined in making it work. 

Engaging in a formal farm transition plan, with the help of an advisor, can help establish realistic goals and milestones that everyone can agree on – and help with accountability. It may seem strange to begin with but taking the time to explain the importance of the business side of farming to your kids, and utilizing your farm management buddy seat, will provide the best chance for your kids to succeed – and for you to have a long and successful retirement.

Contact us

To learn more about how MNP can help your organization, contact Peter Manness, P.Ag.

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