Managing a farm is becoming increasingly complex and requires more business management acumen than ever. If you’re a young person who would like to return to the farm, there are numerous benefits to attending college first. Majoring in agriculture, business or engineering will broaden your horizons, allow you to experience life away from the farm and continue what’s going to be a lifelong learning process. Along the way, you’ll also deepen and expand your skill set and perspectives.
While in college, participate in at least one or more internships and a study abroad program. U.S. agriculture is global, and experiencing another culture, even if it’s just a few weeks, can open your eyes and mind. Some of my students’ most valuable experiences have been congressional and agribusiness internships.
Get involved with student organizations to develop your leadership skills, work with various personalities and learn to manage your time while juggling multiple responsibilities. It’s also beneficial to hold down a part-time job.
When it comes to selecting classes, consider the following:
- Personnel management
- Operations management and process improvement
- Alternative business arrangements
- Macro and global economics
- Cost/managerial economics
- Supply chain management
- Risk management
- Strategic management
- Creative thinking and innovation
- Technical or production courses that would benefit your farm operation
Colleges might not offer some of these courses, so it’s important to research class options when contemplating a college.
Consider working off the farm for three to five years before you return—or long enough to earn at least one promotion in terms of responsibility, not just a title change. A few years away from the farm will give you the opportunity to be sure farming is what you really want to do. Second, working with and under someone who is not family will expose you to different management styles and allow you to prove yourself in an environment where you aren’t the son or daughter.
As much as anything, your experiences should force you to anticipate, adapt and create new approaches to solve problems and capitalize on change. It will serve you well regardless of what you end up doing.
Upcoming Legacy Project Events
Farm Journal Legacy Conference
Nov. 17-18, Indianapolis, Ind.
This event will dive into the logistics of creating a sound succession plan, increasing family harmony and managing legal and tax issues.
Legacy Project Workshops
Dec. 8, Dallas, Texas
Dec. 9, Little Rock, Ark.
These trainings help families begin the process of transitioning their farm to the next generation.
For more details and to register, call (877) 482-7203 or visit www.FarmJournalLegacyProject.com