From Generation to Generation on the Farm
Have you ever tried to explain your job to your kids? Depending on what you do for a living, it can be a pretty interesting exercise. After all, it’s not so simple describing the day-to-day tasks of an accountant, data scientist, marketing manager or variety of other professions when explaining it to a kid.
But for one type of job, it can be a lot easier for a child to understand what his or her parents do for a living: farming. That’s because, for many, farming is a multi-generational affair. Children are often working and learning alongside parents and grandparents, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins. How cool is that?
We chatted with one multi-generational farm family to learn about their experiences working together. Meet Shelly and her 14-year-old daughter Kyndall. Shelly is a third-generation grass seed farmer in Oregon, and her daughter works on the farm when school isn’t in session. Here is an excerpt of our conversation with them:
Q: When was your farm opened?
Shelly: I am a third-generation farmer. Our farm was started back in the 1950’s by my grandpa. We’ve been primarily farming grass seed for all of these years. We also grow hazelnut and wheat, and bale grass straw for export to Japan and Korea.
Q: How many family members work together?
Shelly: Over the years, every single one of my cousins, about 20 of us, have worked on the farm. In fact, one baling crew is made up entirely of cousins.
Q: What is it like working as a family?
Shelly: I started running a combine at 11. My direct boss at the time was my uncle. Over the course of my life, I’ve worked for all three of my uncles, as well as my dad and grandpa. We are definitely a family farm in every regard. Some of my fondest experiences of my childhood are working on the farm during summertime. I always loved being able to work alongside siblings and cousins. It was a lot of hard work, but we also made sure to have lots of fun.
Q: What is it like working alongside your mom?
Kyndall: I try not to treat her as “mom” when I work with her. I keep it professional. I love it. I couldn’t imagine anything else.
Q: What’s been the most surprising thing about Kyndall working on the farm?
Shelly: You’re always anxious to see how good your kids are at something. Everybody has their own forte in life. Some people catch on more quickly than others. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Kyndall did in the field. She was only 13 when she started. When you put a 13 year old in a tractor you never know. She has done such an amazing job.
Q: What do you think the biggest benefits of working together as a family are?
Kyndall: Definitely the relationships. Working together has brought us all very close.
Shelly: Through trials, tough times and good times, we’ve all learned how to communicate effectively with each other. I left the farm after college for a year and didn’t like it. I needed to be back on the farm and with my family. I encourage any family business or farm – as the next generation wants to come back and work – find the best location for them that fits their skillsets. Also, it’s pretty cool to watch Kyndall working with my dad. They have this mutual understanding and a close relationship. My dad is in his late-50s, and is having regular communication with his 14-year-old granddaughter about the business. Their relationship is very special.
Q: What have you learned from each other?
Kyndall: Before I got involved in the farming business, I didn’t take directions very well. And when I say directions, I mean that both in terms of driving to a place I’ve never been before and listening to instructions. My mom taught me how to sit down and really listen.
Shelly: I’ve learned that I can step back and let Kyndall do her job… I don’t have to step in. For example, I let her crew chief and boss contact her about start times and end times. It’s important to let go and let her spread her wings.