Father-Son Relationships Strengthen Farms

June 8, 2012

By Jessy Yancey

A young farmer in his 20s once talked to me about satellite-guided tractors and computer mapping systems for a newspaper story about farm technology. He called back, having thought more about what impacts his multigenerational farm. He said the most valuable guidance on his farm had nothing to do with satellites; rather, it was the wisdom from previous generations.

With Father’s Day on the horizon, it seems appropriate to highlight the father-son partnership, one of the most common ownership structures of Illinois farms. Fathers and sons farming together should be easy to find in any county of the state, as 94 percent of Illinois’ farms are owned by families – most often generations of families. The various combinations of spouses, parents, children, nieces, nephews and cousins share similar goals and values, yet carry their own uniqueness.

And while not all father-son business relationships are the same, I have been around some of the healthiest. My dad and brother regularly lighten their farm duties with movie quotes, combining their shared enjoyment for the big screen with their passion for farming – an “in their blood” type of passion that started nearly at birth.

Generally, self-employment offers the opportunity for a business to train an employee or business partner from the moment they learn the ABCs. Fathers expose their interested children to farming tasks at an early school age, teaching safety first, such as how to put the tractor in neutral, set the safety stops on equipment or approach a pen of cattle. They often work on jobs side by side until the child shows some independence in a task.

They learn to share similar work ethics and viewpoints, which creates unity in the business. The level of trust intensifies, and the father knows the son’s capabilities, as he was trained from an early age. Yet both admit they’re still learning and they may disagree at times. Still, more than one opinion can lead to better decisions.

The partnership is a good mixture of wisdom and youth, especially with today’s farm technologies. It’s where fresh ideas meet proven results. A son told me he recalls as a child marveling over his dad’s strength. The father feels proud watching his son grow and share his life’s passion and choosing to farm when the opportunity was presented.

Meanwhile, a farm mom told me she gains satisfaction observing a healthy father-son relationship develop and seeing that it’s working as envisioned. Not all family partnerships are rosy. Ideally, you can run the business and still enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together.

Multigenerational ownership of the farm is motivating. The family connection makes the farm more than just a job. They possess the mutual feeling to please the other with how they plant a field or conduct the livestock chores. After all, their successes and failures are intertwined. The partnership makes them think about the future, the next generation and how their actions today can make the farm better tomorrow.

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