Opening up conversations between South Dakotans and the farmers who live and work here is what we do. In fact, that’s what Hungry for Truth is all about. Farmers are no different than any other business owner; they run their operations with their families, plan the succession of their operations, teach the next generation sustainable practices, etc.
We had an exciting opportunity to speak with Jordan Scott, President of the SD Soybean Association Board of Directors, about generational farming. Below, Jordan is sharing his perspective on family and farming in a question-and-answer interview.
How many generations have been on the same land you oversee today?
I am currently the 5th generation of this land. My two sons, one and three, will hopefully be the 6th generation. They both love riding in the tractors and being around the farm.
Can you explain what a succession plan is? Could you explain some of the legality behind it?
A succession plan is how the farm is to be passed down, sold, or split up when the current owner decides to or passes away. Every farm has a different plan as to how it will be passed along. Many factors go into the plan; the number of heirs, amount of land, any business debt, any employees that are involved, and many more.
It can become very complicated, but it is vital for the farm to continue working through multiple generations. It is kind of like a will for the farm. Many people use legally binding vehicles such as a trust for succession planning.
You currently farm with your dad. Has the succession planning process already started? When does the process begin?
We have started having some conversations about the process but need to have more. I am one of six kids and the only one farming at this point, so our plan will be somewhat complicated. You cannot start planning too early. These conversations can be difficult and awkward but are necessary for us to stay sustainable.
With your sons, are you hoping that one of them will be ready to take the farm over when they are older? How do you begin to prepare the next generation to take over the farm?
I am very lucky that I get to work with my dad every day on our farm. (We even get along great!) I would love to work alongside one or both of my sons someday on the farm.
I will not push them into the farm, however. Farming is not for everyone and is challenging, stressful work at times. Having said that, I can’t think of a better thing than to work with my kids someday.
Farming with multiple generations, are there sustainable practices that are passed down, or does each generation implement their own practices?
What was sustainable when my grandparents farmed is not sustainable today. Things that my dad did when he started farming are no longer common practice either. As technology changes, so do some of the practices. We have more data and more knowledge today about the soil, the crops we are growing, and how to best treat the ground.
Everything from the seed technology to the GPS used to drive our tractors, and even the tractors themselves have changed a lot even in my short time farming. We strive to do what is best for our land and to stay sustainable. To do that, you must change with the times and adapt the best practices.
What are some new conservation practices that you’ve implemented into your farming operation? What are the benefits?
Just this week, Dad and I rebuilt our corn head for harvest. We installed new parts that will chop the stalks into smaller pieces that are left in the field after harvest. This will help break down the plant matter over the winter and allow the nutrients in that plant matter to be better incorporated into the soil, making a healthier soil.
We have also purchased new equipment that will reduce our tillage and compaction in the soil. Another benefit to that is that we reduce the amount of time and number of passes over that ground with tractors, also cutting down our fuel bill.
If you could tell the average consumer one thing about generational farming and its importance (i.e. quality time, land preservation, etc.), what would you tell them?
Farming is always changing, but one thing remains the same; It is overwhelmingly family-run farms that have been passed down through generations. If we were not taking care of the land we farm in the best way possible, we would not survive. The land is our “factory” where we produce our products. A lot of effort is put into keeping the land as healthy as possible so that we can produce the food and fiber needed to feed the world.
A key to South Dakota agriculture and the traditions that have carried on for many decades starts within the home. According to Ag United, South Dakota is home to about 31,000 farms and ranches, 98% of those farms being family owned and operated. Now that’s a staggering statistic, which shows the importance of agriculture being passed down through generations and the impact it has on our economy today.
Read more about generational farming in our blog with Jerry Schmitz, Executive Director of South Dakota Soybean Checkoff & South Dakota Soybean Association here. For more on the Scott family operation, check out our blog The Importance of Family and Farming.