Not All Producers are the Same – Jack, Jill, and Joe

I grew up believing a farm was a farm was a farm. In fact, until I left public accounting, I still had quite a bit of this belief running through my veins. It wasn’t until I started working with a different style of client that I truly can appreciate the differentiation in the industry. Not to say one is right, one is wrong, but to say that there are many ways to run a race. 


When we started Farmer Coach, it was built on a belief that we could teach producers how to run that race. The problem was, what if certain individuals needed to learn how to walk first? 


We’ve gotten some questions on identifying the different phases of our programs as well as identifying the different stages of a farm’s life cycle. From becoming a startup or new entrant to looking for that higher purpose, not every journey is the same. 


So, sit back and let me introduce you to Jack, Jill, and Joe.


Jack’s Journey


Jack has been a farmer all his life; from the age of five his dad made sure he knew the family roots were in agriculture. He grew up operating every piece of machinery under the sun and by the age of ten was already independent and skipping school to get the crop in. Other than a few years of agriculture at the local university, Jack hasn’t known anything else.


At the age of twenty, he rented his first quarter of land. By twenty-five he had made his first purchase and was meeting with the bank on how to slowly take over the rest of his dad’s acres. His accountants believe that Jack is a great heir to the farm, and he works closely with them to make sure he, and his parents, are properly compensated and taken care of. The bank is also in his corner, as he has been included in meetings with them since his dad thought he was “the next farmer” in the family.


Although the farm continues to be profitable, Jack also knows he could always be better. He sees some of his neighbours expanding and bringing on employees and hopes to be able to do the same. He has attended a couple of peer groups and realizes that he has a lot to learn but is eager and ready to take the farm from what it was to something better. He has set up a few goals for himself, and his new family, and part of it is to become a better manager and business owner, not just a farmer. As he closes in on this thirtieth birthday, he knows that the clock is ticking, and he is ready to take on the next opportunity.


Jack is ready for the Farm Management Executive Program at Farmer Coach.


Jill’s Journey


Jill wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up. She was always involved in the farm and much like her neighbour Jack, she was taught to drive tractors early in life. You could call it more of a chore than a passion though and throughout high school as she was more interested in sports and hobbies. For Jill, farming was probably where she was going to end up, but she also wanted to see something else first.


At the age of eighteen she moved into the city; rooming with some of her best friends she worked part-time at an agriculture supply company while going to school for business management. She always liked being in charge when it came to school projects, but back on the farm her parents kept her away from most of the important decisions. In some respects, she was happy as the responsibility that comes with farming didn’t fall on her shoulders, it was just there if she decided it was important.


After getting her degree Jill bounced around a bit before landing on a job with a farm machinery retailer. On weekends she drove out to the farm to help her parents in the growing season. She got good at seeing the business side as her dad needed a bookkeeper and she got good at operating as her dad was getting older and couldn’t handle the long hours. 


Going back and forth was great, as her dad paid her a wage and she could work two jobs that she enjoyed, and both were in the agricultural field. It wasn’t until her dad started talking about slowing down that Jill really realized she was ready to come back to the farm.


Being over thirty and making the transition back to the family farm is not an easy one. Her dad still made many of the decisions, but the expectation is that Jill would start taking them over at a fast pace. The expectation was that she could learn the family business while on the job in the machinery and then spend the spare time getting to know the non-operational activities. 


At this point she didn’t even know the password to the online banking. How was she ever going to get to a place where she could sit in with the bankers, the accountants, and all the other professionals that had always helped her dad?


Jill is ready for the Farm Business Foundations Program at Farmer Coach.


Joe’s Journey


Joe never realized how much he had achieved at the ripe old age of forty. For most of his life his success was measured in hours until one evening he looked out across the farmyard and stood in awe of the sites he saw. Joe can’t remember a time where he wasn’t a farmer. From his first quarter his dad rented him up until he took over the entire farm a decade ago, he grew up in the dirt. At a young age he realized that he couldn’t do it alone, so he recruited his friends and neighbours to join him on the journey. And what a journey it has been.


The biggest problem for Joe these days is a loss of purpose. 


When you have worked so hard to climb the mountain, when you reach the crest sometimes it becomes anticlimactic. The farm became relatively self-managing without him even knowing it. He hired the right people, they wanted the extra responsibility, he compensated them well, and now he had the luxury of being partially the least important person most days. In fact, he hadn’t driven a piece of machinery further than the Quonset in a couple of years.


A couple of years ago Joe began taking up a few new causes in the industry. He loved agriculture, and he wanted to see it continue to grow positively so that his small children could one day take over the farm. He sat on a few boards, had a peer group that he was part of, and had reached a point where he was ready to start being a bigger fish in a large pond. His purpose and next steps were how to make the farm into a legacy, a business that could continue long after he was gone and become something great. He wanted the next steps in life.


Joe is ready for the Masters in Farm Management Program at Farmer Coach