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Views and opinions: Finding a balance between older, younger generations on the farm


It’s really no big secret that when it comes to older versus younger generations, there generally is a divide as wide as the Grand Canyon. The younger generation finds the older generation inflexible, stuck in their ways, and resistive to change.

The older generation finds the younger generation too free with money, not willing to work hard enough, and not thankful for what they have.

When you have older and younger generations working together on the farm, often times you have and oil and water combination.

The older generation can feel threatened and believe they are being “pushed out”. The younger generation feels like they are not ever given a chance to do the tasks they desire or do them “their way.”

Trouble often brews because the two generations can’t come to agreement as to what tasks are done by who, how tasks are delegated and so forth.

A recent survey was conducted on older farmers as to the rank of managerial authority they wanted to maintain. In other words, what tasks were most important to them. The results came in as follows:

•Deciding when to pay bills

•Identify sources and negotiate loans and finances.

•Negotiate sales of crops/livestock

•Decide when to sell crops/livestock

•Determine level of inputs to be used.

It is interesting that deciding when to pay bills was at the top of the list. I’m guessing for older generations who have likely had to worry about money on and off during their lives, deciding when to pay bills is very engrained in them. Even more interesting is that No. 2 on the list also dealt with finances.

It would be interesting to see the same survey results for younger farmers. I’m guessing the order would be inverted in that younger farmers are likely going to want to feel more “hands on” by working with elements associated with the production of the crop and/or the livestock.

Most interesting, what happens if the older generation sat down with the younger generation and listed all the tasks that were required to run a farm, and then ranked them? Quite possibly, the lowest ranking tasks of the younger generation may be the highest for the older generation, and vice versa.

How much argument would there be if both generations could look at the global task list on the farm and divvy up the tasks based upon who likes to do what.

Many times, we hear people bemoan things like “dad won’t let me plant corn” or “I’m not allowed to do x.” However, the question becomes have these people even talked about whether dad even likes planting corn or if “x” is something one generation even likes to do or not?

The bottom line is that inter-generational farms need to spend time identifying what tasks exist, who is best fit to take on such tasks, and who enjoys such tasks.

Not only will this help with overall efficiency, but will likely work to build trust among the parties. Once the parties take note that the parties are able to perform their respective tasks, the divide between the two generations can lessen.


These articles are for general informational purposes only and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship. John J. Schwarz, II, is a lifelong farmer in Northeast Indiana and has been an agricultural law attorney for 12 years. He can be reached at 260-351-4440,, or visit him at