Jacob Anthony: Familiar weight of expectation on family farms

I am a huge admirer of new entrants coming into our fantastic industry.

They often bring with them new ideas and really are a breath of fresh air with the way they approach farming.

It is great to see them getting the profile across various platforms that they deserve for the hard work and risks they take in order to get into the sector.

All that said though, we should not be forgetting the people who were born into the industry and have come from generations of farmers to work the land.

See also: Read more from all of our young farmer columnists

Just because their story does not fit the fairytale script that various media platforms desire, does not mean that they haven’t had their own uniquely difficult challenges in order to carry out the profession that they love.  

I have a huge frustration with the common misconception among agricultural circles that those who are from family farms just have everything handed to them on a plate.

Weight of expectation

As I am sure many of us who are not first-generation farmers will testify, this is most certainly not the case. In fact, this is far from it.

As many of us grew up on farms as young children we are all aware of the commitment that the farm and its lifestyle entails.

From the moment we can more or less walk, we are thrust into helping out on the farm, something that is very unique to agriculture.

This often leads to missing out on simple childhood things that other people take for granted.

Holidays, for example, or even something as simple as going down the park to play football with your friends after school.

Family pressure can be a powerful and hard-to-ignore factor.

Many next generation farmers find themselves walking away from the family business due the constant weight of expectation.

Whether you think it or not, you always feel pressured to live up to your family’s ideology when it comes to the choices you make and the way you carry out your role.

It’s very difficult to have the freedom to make your own decisions.

I know farmers in their 60s who have been farming all their life, but still have to check with their parents before they decide to do something in regards to the direction farm is heading in.

Succession stress

It is often easier starting from scratch with only the burden of your own expectation, not being constantly compared and judged to previous generations before you.

The biggest white elephant when it comes to family farms and one that many people can relate to is the thorny issue of succession.

This is a subject that is often veiled in secrecy as no one wants to show their hand, but it is vitally important to know the direction of where the farm is heading.

Many people can work their best working years with the perception that they will one day have full control of the reins, only for this to be swept from under their feet due to not discussing the matter fully and understanding what formalities are actually in place.

This is a dire situation for anyone to find themselves in and its one we all have in the back of our head, no matter what way we butter it up.

It isn’t as easy as we are led to believe coming from generations of farmers, and whether people realise it or not, sometimes it really is easier to be a lone figure starting out in your own right.

Every entry point into farming has its own trials and tribulations, but don’t think that family farming is all plain sailing.