The Atlantic magazine recently published a great article about family farms and how they’ve weathered changes on the industry to become hugely successful. This is the type of farming I see in my corner of Minnesota. The farms are all owned by families. While they may have incorporated because some lawyer or accountant said it would be good, the people who actually farm are fathers, mothers, brothers, grandparents…real people who do a really hard physical job really well.
The farms here are vast. It’s not at all uncommon to see an average farmer handling 5000 or more acres by himself or with just a few hired hands. My own Dad and my uncle are just these kinds of farmers, growing corn and soybeans on the fertile land of southeastern Minnesota.
My favorite part of this article may have been the way the author praised farmers for their foresight in supporting good education. That’s precisely the value I see in farming communities around me. Farmers and their families support local schools, sitting on the school boards, attending games, leading youth groups, and encouraging young people. It’s why we see such good education systems in states with a farming background. And it’s why, when my husband was hired as an engineer in a California company, his boss told him, “I’d hire a farm kid any day. Farmers are some of the smartest, most ingenious people you’ll ever meet.” Heck, it’s why my own farmer dad has a daughter with a Harvard law education, another daughter who’s a doctor, and two more well-educated daughters whose families own their own businesses.
Midwesterners sometimes get a bad rap in national magazines as being behind the times or somehow different. It was a refreshing change to read an article praising the business model of the modern family farm.
And with that, I’ll put in my normal plug for farm succession planning. If you are the owner of a successful family farm, you have all the more reason to spend just a bit of time with a lawyer thinking about a fair way to pass that farm on to the next generation in your family. Farmers who have built these incredibly successful, sophisticated businesses deserve to have a good plan in place so they don’t have to worry about what happens when they’re ready to be done farming.