Degree to Farm: Returning to the Family Farm After College

By   |   November 25th, 2015   |   0 Comments

Back to the family farm after graduationThe time is right; you are fresh out of school and a position in the family farm business awaits, or so you thought. Is it really the right time to return home; is it your idea or your parents? Understanding why the time to invest these early career years back at the family farm or business immediately after completing a few years away from home is crucial.


Is the business expanding and all hands on deck are needed? Have you been given a unique opportunity to be a part of this growth? Or are you the easiest candidate to hire because mom and dad are getting burnt out from a heavy work load? Or are there other factors such as health that out of their own control? Or is it that you need a job and expect a position be available, because after all, you have a newly minted agriculture degree?


Think about your return home to the farm and ask the same questions you would when considering other employment opportunities: what is my role, my responsibilities, my compensation and hours? Think about strategic questions like, what are the goals of the business? Do they match my personal goals? Is management willing to consider my opinion?   It’s critical to have conversations with your family members before taking on, or assuming any role will be made available.


Ask about the types of discussions you will be included in. Do you get to sit in when the accountant and banker pays a visit, have influence on the technology being used in the farm equipment? Or will your days be spent doing physical labour with little engagement and a disillusioned expectations?


Family businesses create other challenges aside from the days spent working, but also holidays, social time, and family gatherings. Too often family isn’t just mom and dad, it’s also siblings, both farming and non-farming, in-laws, and in some cases extended family.


The family culture of each business is unique. Some parents insist on their children working and training for other employers to gain technical and (more importantly) life skills including listening, communicating, following instructions and cooperating.


Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your new boss, in this case often your mom and dad, can be tough, but take time to consider what influences their decisions: are they motivated by the same things you are, and in some cases, is there any future in this business?


Your life up to this point has been a lifelong interview where your past behaviors, level of responsibility and interactions are sure to be judged. Now being considered a responsible adult can be a difficult challenge to overcome.


Top 5 reasons to return to the family farm business:


  1. Passion: you can’t wait to build on existing family success
  2. The ability to influence decisions, be engaged and accountable
  3. The farm was a constant case study at school; now put it in practice.
  4. Sweat equity often turns into financial equity
  5. The benefit of multi-tasking and not being confined to a single job description.


Top 5 challenges faced when returning to the family farm business:


  1. Influencing change can be difficult and is not automatic
  2. Financial constraints are real, including funds for wages and capital reinvestment
  3. Communication can be challenging given time and emotion already invested in the family business
  4. Generational challenges can misalign with farm and family goals
  5. Time: it takes patience



Overall, showing respect for each other is the first step to the future. Find on-the-farm jobs today on

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