Listening and Learning Helps Young Farmers
February 18, 2021
Communication is key when it comes to success on the farm, including listening.
“Farming has changed, but a lot has remained the same. Even though everything around us looks a little different than it did 20-30 years ago, many of the decisions and struggles are the same,” says Mike Nelson. “It’s helpful when experienced farmers share lessons learned to help keep you from making those same mistakes.”
The Ford County farmer recognizes a relationship like the one he enjoys with Farm Credit Illinois can also help with challenges faced by beginning farmers.
“It’s difficult to be a young farmer, particularly when the farm economy is going through a downturn and things are tough. It’s important to partner with someone who really understands the specific challenges that come with relying on farm income,” Mike says. “I know that Farm Credit understands those struggles.”
Mike, 34, keeps communication lines open with his father as they share the workload on their farming operations. Mike farms some acres of his own and works as an hourly employee on his father’s farm. Mike pays his father a custom rate for the use of equipment. He appreciates the opportunity to buy into the family farm and knows the value of his father’s mentorship.
“We sometimes spend hours in the office discussing management strategies and day-to-day operations,” he says. “There’s so much detail that goes into most decisions. We try to focus on finding those little details that make a difference.”
The priorities of God and family remain at the forefront of Mike’s philosophy about life and farming.
“First and foremost, keep your priorities straight. Put God first. Keep him in the decision making. That plays a big role in keeping your head on straight,” Mike says. “I’m very blessed to have been married to my wife for 12 years and we are very open. If I come home struggling or frustrated, we will talk through it together.”
Mike believes industry involvement is important and has participated in the 2016 National Council of Farmer Cooperatives Washington Conference, Monsanto’s Next Gen program, and Cultivating Master Farmers. He has also taken advantage of many Farm Credit Illinois learning programs to gain knowledge and experience he can use on the farm.“They want to enhance financial skills of young farmers and prepare us to weather the tough times as we build our businesses. It’s a huge comfort knowing Farm Credit is there for us.”