I mean exactly what you just read in the title: Don’t waste your time sticking around the family farm. Do you really want to deal with the low commodity prices, working seven days per week (especially true if you throw some livestock in there) with pay entirely dependent on the markets, and the inevitable family arguments?
If you’re around my age, you’re still trying to figure out what you want to do with life. You’ve gotten the basics down in high school and then went on to college to further your education. Sure, a degree is all fine and dandy, but how many people exit school and immediately enter their dream job? And is that dream job really the one they want for life?
As for me, I didn’t get my dream job immediately out of college. Real shocker, I know. I’m a couple of years into my career and I don’t even know what my dream job looks like right now. As a college student, I could’ve totally told you exactly what that dream job would look like, but to be honest I don’t think it even exists, not to mention my “dream job” changed three times before I even had a post-college job. But I can tell you what I like in a job in my field (agricultural communication) and what I don’t like in a job in my field and what kinds of jobs I’m not even going to consider in my field if there’s another option.
If you’ve read my blog over the last three-ish years, have followed me on Twitter, or have read my bio (it’s over there on the right of this page 🙂 ), you probably know that I grew up on a farm, studied agricultural communication (and agronomy!) at Illinois State University, moved to St. Louis to begin my career and pretend to be a fully-functional adult, and about a year after all of the above, made the terrible decision to continue on with grad school (jk, not really terrible…most of the time). You know how all of that fits together (besides being the mini-narrative of Gracie’s post-high school life)? It’s experience.
If you know me in person, you probably were surprised when I up and moved to St. Louis with three weeks’ notice. I grew up in Central Illinois and “moved” a whole 13.7 miles (yes, I just Googled it) to college, so I’d never really lived more than a 20-minute drive from the farm. I basically dragged myself internally kicking and screaming 160 miles to St. Louis to take a job that I wasn’t my “dream job” because (A) I really liked the company and (B) I couldn’t stand to be living in my parents’ house anymore after three weeks following my college graduation. No offense to my parents, but once you’ve been independent, it’s hard to be back under the parentals’ roof with the “rules” and the “where are you going and when are you going to be back?s”.
Anyway, 160 miles (or 2 hours and 15 minutes with little to no traffic) away from home doesn’t seem like a big deal. Tons of people have left home and made a cross-country move before. But for me, it’s too far for an evening visit. I miss out on tons of things happening at home, with my old 4-H club, church things, family things, friend things, farm things– everything. But I’m getting experience here. I’m learning to be more independent as a person and learning how much living in a city is actually pretty similar to living in the country (my commute is just as long and, believe it or not, the grocery store I like to shop at is further away than the one I’d shop at back home). I’m learning to appreciate the things I get to do on weekend visits home more than I would if they were everyday things like they once were. I know that I want to live in the area I grew up in one day, maybe next year or maybe in five years. I have a new appreciation for our farm and for agriculture as a whole now that I’ve seen it from different regional and national perspectives. I know that I probably want to farm someday. I’ve kind of figured out me.
So yeah, leave the family farm. It’s not worth sticking around and missing out on the education (if that’s your thing) or the off-farm job experiences. Learn from others who farm in different areas of the county, state, or region. Explore those expensive out-of-state colleges that have an awesome program in the field you want to pursue (if you’re from Illinois, those out-of-state tuition bills aren’t really as scary as you might think). Take that off-farm job that will give you the experience you need to one day bring back to the farm because Dad and Grandpa have everything covered right now anyway. Figure out why you want to farm and what you are going to bring to the business besides an extra set of hands wanting a paycheck.
In all honesty, farming kind of sucks right now. We’re in a low part of the cycle where commodity prices are low and it’s becoming difficult for some farms to break even. But we’re also entering new and exciting times with technology and making our farms more efficient. Take this opportunity to go do something different, experience the world or more of the ag industry or even another industry entirely, and figure out what you can bring back to your family’s farm. Times are tough now, but that doesn’t mean they will still be in five years. Go ahead and leave the farm. Besides, you can always visit on the weekends. 🙂