Successful Farming - - CONTENTS - By Jo­lene Brown

Sub­mit­ted by email from R.B.

I’ve had it with my old­est brother, Dad’s Golden Child. I’ve been do­ing the work and man­ag­ing most as­pects of our large grain farm for the past 12 years. Dad does help at plant­ing and har­vest. My wife teaches, does the farm books, and many other jobs on the farm.

Two years ago, my dad an­nounced that my older brother needed to come back to the farm be­cause he couldn’t find a “good-pay­ing” job. My brother and his free-spend­ing wife be­lieve they shouldn’t have to work too hard (so they don’t), and they take fre­quent va­ca­tions. My work­load has grown, as I have to cover for him and in­crease the farm in­come to cover their draw from the farm.

This past week, Dad shared that he is giv­ing my brother “money on the side,” bring­ing his in­come to al­most twice as much as mine. Dad said, “Your brother’s older, has a lot of per­sonal debt, and the farm is his only source of fam­ily in­come be­cause his wife doesn’t work.”

The fi­nal straw came when Dad shared his non­nego­tiable farm es­tate plan with my brother and me. He said, “All farm as­sets will be di­vided equally be­tween you two sons, and if one doesn’t like work­ing to­gether and de­cides to leave, the one who stays be­hind gets it all.” It was the smirk on my brother’s face that hit me smack in my face. I have now met the Golden Child. There is no way I could be equal part­ners with him.

What do you think I should do?


Your ques­tion came in the form of a long email story. Be­cause of space, I edited out a lot of jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for your frus­tra­tion. There are many dif­fer­ences be­tween you and your brother: ed­u­ca­tion, ag work ex­pe­ri­ence on and off the farm, work ethic, spousal sup­port, fi­nan­cial savvy, char­ac­ter, and val­ues. If what you say is true, then my an­swer is pretty short.

You have clearly iden­ti­fied the pup­peteer (Dad), and you are the pup­pet. If I were in your shoes, I’d cut the strings and leave – now.

I be­lieve you’ve been a very good pup­pet. For many years you danced well for your fa­ther, the farm, and, re­cently, your brother. Your brother’s strings are not as eq­ui­tably pulled, nor do I be­lieve they ever will be. That’s clear by your dad’s gift­ing, your brother’s be­hav­iors, and his re­sponse as your fa­ther in­tends to man­age your fu­ture from the grave.

Just be­cause you may not have con­trol of your fa­ther’s as­sets or his ac­tions to­ward the Golden Child, you and your wife are not pow­er­less.

The first step is to get your Plan B un­der way. An­swer this ques­tion: If I wasn’t work­ing here, what would I

Just be­cause you may not have con­trol of your fa­ther’s as­sets or his ac­tions to­ward the Golden Child, you and your wife are not pow­er­less.

do? Seek a bet­ter place to work where you might earn the right of re­spect, lead­er­ship, and own­er­ship.

The sec­ond step is to have one fi­nal and clear con­ver­sa­tion with your fa­ther. Doc­u­ment your con­tri­bu­tions. State your wishes for you and your fam­ily’s fu­ture on the farm, which would ex­clude any joint own­er­ship with your brother. If there is no change in your fa­ther’s po­si­tion, fol­low through with Plan B.

Easy? No, but you’re not start­ing at the bot­tom of the em­ployee lad­der. You have tested re­sults and grit to bring to your next en­deavor. By cut­ting the strings, you will stand taller, re­duce your stress, and re­ceive the recog­ni­tion you de­serve.

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