Saying “yes” to a career in production agriculture means saying “no” to other opportunities. Are aspiring young producers prepared for what it takes?

Amanda Radke

April 5, 2021

4 Min Read

Spring calving is upon us, and we’ve enjoyed a relatively mild winter and a drier spring, meaning less snow, mud and muck to contend with as we welcome new calves to the ranch.

Aside from a few challenging blizzards, we feel pretty blessed to have fared so well this year, especially in consideration to past years.

Our constant prayer now is for rain, rain, rain. It’s getting dry, and we are anxious to see pastures starting to green up and grow for the summer grazing season.

In the meantime, we have kept busy prepping for the breeding season, hauling some manure, fixing fences and gearing up for turnout come May.

It seems the tasks are never-ending on the ranch. We always joke that we don’t have time to get into too much trouble around here, between four kids and the never-ending list of to-do items to tackle outside.

Yet, we like it this way. It’s a humble and beautiful way to raise kids. We enjoy tending to the cattle and caring for our land. We enjoy making things better, setting goals and striving to grow and expand our cattle business in new and innovative ways each year.

And we look forward to our kids getting older and becoming more engaged in the process. Of course, they’ve always been good tag-alongs. It’s not uncommon for us to have one or all four kids following along as Tyler and I work.

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The other day our oldest daughter, Scarlett, while holding the milker for a bottle calf, said, “Dad, when you get older, I think I’ll take over the ranch for you.”

I was a bit surprised by her statement. I didn’t know our six-year old had a vision for running the ranch one day, but it was a reality check that we better keep working hard to build our legacy and ensure she has that option one day if she so chooses.

I’m sure many ranching families are in the same boat. You’ve seen your great-grandparents, grandparents and parents make incredible sacrifices to ensure the multi-generational operation stays in the family. If you inherited the same passion for agriculture and appreciation for the family business, you end up doing the same.

I often get to speak to young producers and agricultural groups about the topic of moving back home to the family ranch. In recent weeks, I’ve shared advice with students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and North Dakota State University about what it takes to pursue careers in production agriculture.

They all have grand visions for moving home to the family ranch, but I often wonder, do they fully know and understand what it truly takes to make it in this business?

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In these workshops and presentations I offer, we discuss exactly that. I tackle topics like the value of sweat equity, the importance of adding to the family farm/ranch and not just wanting a piece of the pie, the necessity for diversifying or growing the business in new ways to increase cash flow, and how critical it is to have solid financial literacy before signing the operating note.

In these presentations, I also remind students that when they say “yes” to a career in production agriculture, it’s an exciting decision. This career path is equally rewarding and challenging, and it’s a unique way to grow up, raise a family and make a living.

On the flip side, when you say “yes” to farming and ranching, you’re saying “no” to other opportunities. You’re saying “no” to a slower lifestyle, fancy trips, free weekends and other extravagances that your peers and friends may enjoy.

However, to achieve that dream that we all share — to be successful cattlemen and women raising cattle and kids in this beautiful country that we love — we must water the grass to make those dreams grow.

Yes, the grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, but you don’t know the sacrifices or choices made for the person to achieve that goal. Whether it’s a trip to Disney or the latest and greatest car that you’re coveting, understand that the grass on your side of the fence only grows with the determination and focus in which you water it.

Long story short, I’m going to keep watering the grass here on the ranch, so that one day my kids will have the same opportunity I had, to say “yes” to being in the cattle business.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

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