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We asked Wayne Jensen to gather three of his farming friends together to discuss the future of the family farmÖ and whether itís a good idea to pass the farming tradition on to the next generation. The following is an abridged version of that discussion.

3 Farming Friends

Wayne Jensen:
So are you having a good time farming this year?

Garry Esser:
Yeah, I am. You know, I love farming. Itís challenging. The prices have taken some of the fun out of it. Itís kind of sad that you would not enjoy farming because you worry about losing it.

The ďno tillĒ part has been fun. I have really enjoyed the newness of it and the challenge and watching things grow. Even the mistakes. If you donít make a few you havenít pushed the limits. So, yeah, Iím enjoying it.

Russ Zenner

Russ Zenner:
Itís been the challenge of making direct seed or ďno tillĒ work that has certainly kept me motivated.

We made a lot of modifications through the four years here, and made a lot of progress. Itís been slow at times it seems like, but I guess to see the effort that we sort of jointly put together have some results that looks like itís going to lead to the success of the system has really been encouraging. That part of it has certainly kept me motivated.

Thereís obviously a long ways to go, but weíre getting closer every year, and thatís the fun part of it.

Lee Druffel and Wayne Jensen

Lee Druffel:
One thing that does concern me about the profession of farming in the future is I really hesitate to bring the next generation in, because Iím not sure how viable it is.

And if the stress and all the problems we have now with prices and expenses remain or escalate, do you want to set the next generation up for even a tougher go of it than what weíre having? So that bothers me.

Weíve had a fifth generation farm, and do we want to continue it to the next generation, or would it be better and more humane to the next generation to discourage them and allow the neighbor to farm it?

Iíve got a kid whoíd like to return and heís of the age and he would be good. Heís got the experience and the brain to do it, but should I bring him back or not?

Russ Zenner:
I think if you have children in the family that have a passion and a desire to do it, and they have a good groundwork laid as far as a successful operation, Iím convinced that thereís going to be survivors in this business that are going to probably do pretty well. Admitted, thereís going to be challenges, the prices and the expenses and those kinds of things, but the people that are sort of leading the pack a little bit and understand the things they need to do to be successful, I think thereís going to be opportunities for a good lifestyle.

But again itís going to have to be a situation where youíve got some love and some passion for it, or the stress will eat you up. You want to be sure thatís what you want to do, and I think thereís opportunities for the next generation.

Garry Esser

Garry Esser:
You know, Lee, being someone who fought hard to get into farming, I think if youíve got a son, like Russ said, loves it and wants to be a farmer, youíve got to let him go and make his own mistakes.

When thereís someone out there who really has a passion for the land, you got to let them try. I think you just got to let them try.

Lee Druffel

Lee Druffel:
I guess the alternative is huge corporate farms or some different structure.

I guess if we donít allow the next generation to come and keep it in the family, weíre opening the door for the corporate type structure, mega farms that I donít think would be in the best interest of food production or stewardship.

Weíd be down to mining the ground, so youíre probably right. Itís just difficult. Youíre concerned about your own equity. Are you going to deal that away? Youíre also concerned about allowing the next generation in? Are you really doing them a service or setting them up for something thatís going to be too difficult to accomplish?

Everyone has to make that choice. You guys are going to have to make that choice, too, eventually, as to whatís going to happen to the ground weíre farming for the next generation, because itís up to us to set up that and make it successful.

I think all of our fathers gave up equity and time and sacrificed so we could be here now. And I guess itís going to be incumbent upon us to do the same for the next generation. Weíre arenít going to get full value, but we do it in the effort to continue the family type farm.