Know How to Communicate with All Generations on the Farm

For the first time in history, four different generations are currently involved in the agricultural industry. It is essential as a farm manager to know how to communicate with each generation not only to avoid conflict, but to remain a successful agriculture producer. These four generations include; the matures (ages 62 and over), baby boomers (ages 43 61), generation X (ages 31 42) and generation Y (ages 13 30).

As a farm business manager you should define all of the people who are a part of your farm operation, in terms of their generational group, and then determine how each individual would like to communicate according to their comforts and background. To assist farm managers in this process here are a list of characteristics each generation tends to follow and demonstrate:

The matures believe that hard work and dedication lead to rewards. They possess the following characteristics:

Punctual and rarely miss work

Committed to organization

Respect authority

Great interpersonal skills

Good worth ethic

However be aware that, matures tend to struggle with diversity and change, and technology.

The baby boomers are considered the “me” generation. They retain the following characteristics:

Competitive and hard-working

Want to get the job done at any cost

Seen as sacrificing personal life to achieve personal goals

Driven and service-oriented

Team players

Keep in mind that baby boomers don’t deal with conflict or diversity well. Also, they tend to be self-promoting.

Generation X members are known as the “latchkey kids,” meaning that their parents both worked, which caused them to be more independent. Their common characteristics are:

Digest information rapidly

Witnessed the economic challenges of the ’80s

May not desire to sacrifice personal life for the business or company.

Generation X also tends to be open to receiving feedback and are good at networking.

Generation Y members are viewed as more cooperative and civic-minded. This generation tends to:

Have mostly no affluence

Want to do meaningful work that makes a difference in the world

Value information technology

Have big goals for the future

Typically, Generation Y is good at multitasking and appreciates diversity. They also tend to have strong parental attachments and need more recognition of a job well done.

Currently our farm environment is setup to witness a rapid transition that will occur in the age of those in charge of farm operations. According to the Farm Business Management Report findings, in 2011 52% of farmers in southern Minnesota are over the age of 51, with 20% of those farmers being over the age of 60. This is important for all generations to acknowledge because of the opportunities this could offer for members of each generation. If you’re a member on the end of transitioning into retirement there may be many options for you to hand your legacy over to or if you are on the beginning end this can also mean there are options to becoming a farm producer with a reasonable amount of financial burden. We all know a transition cycle is on the horizon, we just can’t pinpoint when, but we can communicate our needs and wants with the members we want involved. Talk to your local Farm Business Management Instructor about creating a transition plan that works for any and all generations involved.

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