Published Jul 16, 2014

Five Generations Tending to Soil and Family

By Teresa Opheim

Tending to soil and family: Both are key to farming generation after generation. At the Lynch Field Day July 17th, Bob Lynch lead a discussion on both.

Bob, Linda and Jay Lynch practice no-till and strip-till on their farm ground and use cover crops as well on their farm near Gilmore City (Humboldt County). And they have accomplished something special: Five generations of Lynches have farmed this spot of the earth.

Here are three points that John Baker, an attorney with the Beginning Farmer Center, reports the Lynches are doing right:

1. Require the offspring to leave

When Jay graduated high school, “we told him he had to find a job off the farm for a year,” Bob reports. “He went to Iowa Lakes Community College in Emmetsburg and worked for a Fort Dodge farmer. When he came back, we hired him as a laborer for the first year. We knew communication was going to be essential. So we used that first year to see how it would go.”

Reports John Baker: “Bob and Linda did this just right by requiring that Jay work off the farm, to ensure that he really wanted to return to the farm. Also, hiring him as an employee for the first year was good, because it would have made it easier for Jay to leave if it did not work out.”

2. Build equity by owning equipment

Bob farmed for 30-plus years with his father, Larry. They shared some equipment and owned some of their own; Bob and Linda continue that arrangement with Jay. For example, Jay owns half of the planter and has his own tractor; Bob and Linda own the combine. “Having Jay buy into the equipment is a way for him to get equity in the operation,” Bob says. “If Jay just paid rent on my equipment, he wouldn’t be building up that equity.”

3. Step back and let the younger generation take over

Bob remembers fondly planting his first rows (they were crooked) and being given responsibility to try things himself in his early 20s. When he and Jay started farming together, Bob ran the combine. “Then one day, Jay wanted to do it,” Bob says. “The next day he showed up and wanted to do it again. I said, ‘well then you fuel it and grease it as well.’ That taught responsibility.”

Bob reports he doesn’t want to be involved in the day-to-day operations in the future. “I don’t want Jay to be 50-something and not ever have been in charge,” he says. “I know a farmer in his middle 60s who had never planted or harvested a kernel because his dad always did that. I don’t want to be 75 or 80 and still farming, even though it is easier to do that now physically. We want to keep younger generations learning and doing their own thing.”

John Baker reports that Bob and Linda should make sure they transfer strategic decision-making authority, as well as tactical (day-to-day decisions) to Jay as well. “It is wonderfully perceptive to back off and let the younger generation take over,” Baker says.