Dear Michael:

We have a grandson that would like to farm. However, he is just in his first couple of years. He is our daughter’s son, and our daughter never showed much interest in the farm. However, he seems to like it and has been pretty diligent about getting his work done and helping wherever he can.  At what age or what time frame do you see starting to pass farm assets over to him? What do you think we will need for income to help him take over?

– Grandson Starting

Dear Grandson Starting:

I’m going to take an educated guess and say if this is your grandson, that likely you are either in your sixties or seventies if you have a grandson old enough to farm.

It’s a strange situation when none of your children farm but then one of your grandchildren start farming. They may have grown up around the farm but truly haven’t lived farming as a lifestyle yet. It’s much more challenging to gauge whether or not this lifestyle – and I do mean lifestyle – is for someone who didn’t grow up inside of it.

As such, I would take a little more time to let him prove himself that this is indeed what he wants to do. If he progresses, you can see if he can rent some land on his own and use your machinery to raise the crop. If he does well with that, sans any natural disasters such as drought or flood, he should have some change in his pocket when he sells the crop.

If he takes that money and buys himself a new truck or motorcycle, then you might want to pull back on the reins a bit. If he uses that money to upgrade his cropland or machinery, then you might have a winner on your hands.

I think it’s a lot easier for grandsons to learn from the grandfather than it is to teach your children. Children have that built-in need to rebel with their parents whereas grandchildren haven’t spent so much time around you they know all the good and the bad things about you. In their eyes, you’ve only did good things. Makes it much easier to teach them without the child feel like it’s parental abuse.

As far as age goes, depending on the assets in question – whether it’s machinery, livestock or land – I wouldn’t give anything away that someday you might regret. It’s kind of like going to the casino – never take more money than you’ll lose regretting afterward.

These days, children stay children for a lot longer. Most of them have no permanent relationships or marriage until they are thirty or so, and you never know how good or bad this relationship might be for the farm. If your grandson were to marry and she loves farming and comes from a farm background and you don’t have any issues, then continue with the farm transition.

If however, you sense they may not be getting along so good, then again you’ll have to pull back on the reins a bit. If she has no interest in the farm, doesn’t get out to help and acts like a stranger around the yard, sad to say, but those aren’t good signs of someone interested in this lifestyle.

I keep referring to farming as a lifestyle and, unlike any other business in the world, agriculture is one where you live right inside of the business twenty-four seven. You seldom get to take off holidays or birthdays or President’s days if there is work to be done. If your grandson feels like he needs to have these days off, you can remind him that in farming, you live the lifestyle.

If all goes well, and I hope it does, I think you teaching him the ropes of farming, as I said before, it’s much easier on both of you from grandfather to grandson then it is from Dad to son. As far as income, that’s up to you two how you split it!