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#7 Stubborn Farm Families & Planning for Future Generations with Andy Junkin Transcript

EMILIE: Welcome to Plow and Pencil the art of American agriculture where like Ike, we recognize that farming looks mighty easy when you’re plow is a pencil over 1000 miles from the cornfield. The Plow and Pencil podcast will paint a picture of American agriculture. Today, we will tell the stories of the producers, the products, the policies, and the platforms that provide feed and fuel to our nation and our world. Join the movement of farmers, ranchers and agriculture advocates plowing new ground and pencil us in to your weekly podcast schedule. This podcast is brought to you by The tool thousands of farmers and ranchers are using to buy, sell, hire, and work in agriculture. Hello, HitchPin community! Welcome back to Plow and Pencil the art of American agriculture. I’m your host Emilie Fink, and today I am honored to have Andy Caygeon Junkin, founder of agriculture strategy, which was incorporated in 2010. And Ontario, became an Iowa LLC in 2019, and was rebranded to in January of 2022. To better reflect what they are in the business of doing, developing better ways to solve the root issues that plagues family farms. As he’s about to share, it all comes down to fixing the stubborn. First a little bit about our guest originally from Bobcaygeon, Ontario, Andy’s life change when he was 35. And the weight of emotion so many folks in agriculture carry, became too much. He walked out of the barn on his family’s farm, not only alive but in many ways reborn. Over the past decade, he has been able to help farmers and over 21 states and four Canadian provinces. And he’s written five books, has a course taught in several universities, and have spoken across North America. Andy and his wife Bernadette live on a small farm in Iowa and have three sons, Huck, Colt, and Scout. You can follow him on Facebook at Farming with Family or subscribe to his YouTube channel. As always, be sure to visit our blog for show notes and links to resources cited in this episode. Welcome to Plow and Pencil, Andy.

ANDY: How are you today? Like, that was quite the intro. I mean, I don’t know where you got that, but I wish I could just have you follow me around. I have a hard time explaining what I do for a living. Appreciate the good intro you got what I do off of my website or whatever. But that’s fantastic.

EMILILE: Well, we’re so glad to have you here. And I wanrned you that I like to start each podcast with a little bit of ag trivia. So I’m going to ask a question and see what answer you can come up with. What percent of US farms are family farms?

ANDY: I think our website we have that 98%. Is that right?

EMILIE: Yeah, absolutely. You nailed it.

ANDY: Okay, yeah, we just have our stats on a website. But I think the I mean, these hippies in California, they think that the family farm is dead. But the truth is, there’s never been a generation where the term family farmer is more relevant. I mean, these days, just one person farming is you got two, three cousins, two, three siblings farming together, because you got to keep the family capital together. And just because we may have a corporation instead of a sole proprietorship, we have multiple family members involved in that operation. And it’s just that we all have shares instead of owning the whole watermelon, we have slices of watermelon. And that’s the challenge of our generation. If you want to passover grandma’s farm to grandchildren, you got to learn how to share and you’ve got to turn working with family from weakness to strength.

EMILIE: Well, that sets us up perfectly. And for those who have now listened to a few of our Plow and Pencil episodes, they’re familiar with us starting up here at this 30,000-foot level. So Andy, tell us who is the stubborn farm family expert.

ANDY: I just help stubborn farmers work better together. And what I do is help the farm family stop being stubborn with each other and start being stubborn the critical habits that makes the farm succeed.

EMILIE: Okay, now tell us who is Andy Junkin.

ANDY: I’m just a seventh-generation farm boy from a little town called Bobcaygeon and I just hit the lottery as far as being able to marry the best woman ever. And I live to save family farms.

EMILIE: Okay, so if our listeners are anything like me, give us some geographical reference, where’s Bobcaygeon?

ANDY: Bobcaygeon is on the edge of the world. Basically, it sits north of Toronto, Ontario by about two hours. It is probable that we have moose and bears go through cornfields. And so it’s a lot like Appalachia is just on the edge of the Canadian wilderness. And basically, I went to University of Guelph, which is Western Ontario, and for the first 10 years of me doing what I do, I was based in Western Ontario, where all my friends were based out of and it’s just like Iowa. It’s flatter than flat. It’s for I just was on a farm on the phone is $35,000 An acre land, corn beans, a lot of cattle, a dairy cattle, a lot of hogs, just like Iowa, except for the lands cheaper down here. So yeah, there was no difference between here and there. So and I married an American farm girl. She was a Michigan farm girl, it was her she was going to be a nun until she couldn’t decide whether to be a farmer or to be a nun. And our first date was her last. It was our first date was her first date. And it was my last first date. And we moved to Iowa here five years ago.

EMILIE: Awesome. No better way to raise our families right than out on the farm.

ANDY: Our boys are wild. Yeah. In their country, boys, for sure. So yeah, that’s great.

EMILIE: So Andy, let’s talk about the biggest change that you have seen in farming. 

ANDY: Well I think the biggest change in technology and farming in the last 50 years is that, you know, there’s been a lot of changes like GPS or computers in agriculture. But I think the biggest change we don’t realize is that fewer farmers are dropping dead of heart attacks in their 60s than back in the 1960s. I mean, modern health sciences is a game-changer in ways we haven’t really thought through. I mean, then back in the 60s, when dad was 60, he would retire because his hips were shot. And nowadays, if that has bad hips, he goes in for hip surgery, and farming until he’s 80. And it is, which is great. If you want to farm until the day you die and two weeks after. if you’re 92, If you want to farm till you’re 92. I’m all by making that happen. But we suddenly have three generations farming together instead of one generation farming at a time. And we because its capitals of this equipment so expensive. We have too many cousins of siblings farming together as well because you got to keep your family capital together. And we joke about it, but it’s really no joke and its impact on farming profitability in a huge way.

EMILIE: So, Andy, we have some listeners of Plow ans Pencil who aren’t as involved in agriculture. So what kind of analogy would you make for those who aren’t in agriculture? Today’s problem?

ANDY: Well, I think the thing is, we’re butting heads and pulling from different directions. And my slit was in the cracks. And I think like 100 years ago, 100 years ago, we had a situation where marriage has changed a lot in 100 years, it used to be one person was dominant. And it’s still the same way. And a lot of family farms were and we’re having a hard time transitioning from a parent-child relationship to a professional working relationship. And really, it shouldn’t matter who has more equity, on paper, in a safe, what matters is that the family is able instead of butting heads and pulling from different directions. As you get into power struggles, you got to get everybody on the same page and get everybody pulling in the same direction. And so, you know, we have a lot of problems right now with siblings and parents and children making decisions together. It’s a big power struggle. And we got to get rid of the power struggle and make farming fun again.

EMILIE: You’re a marriage counselor for farm families.

ANDY: Yeah, that’s yeah, it is. And what actually surprised me 20-15 years ago, when I started doing this, I had a professional mediator that had been in this business for 30 years. He actually said like, I personally know what it’s like to wake up on Christmas morning without your family because of farm succession dilemmas. Right. And so I take it really hard, every client that that, you know, don’t get together for Christmas, and I had been doing this for a year and there was just one client that I was everybody was still alive. I had to take a gun out of a suicidal farmer’s hands. Everybody was fine and dandy, but you know where they’re gonna get you there for Christmas. I took that. I don’t think so. And what I was surprised was with this guy that hadn’t been doing it for I think probably 20 years he had a Ph.D. in the topic. He says like, over half of the people that go to a marriage counselor, they get divorced within four years. And that’s because everybody’s going into  the meeting wanting to basically get a judge somebody to judge in their favor and say, Okay, your partner’s in the wrong, you’re on the right. And when they’re speaking to each other, they’re not in the marriage counseling session that they’re when their spouse is speaking to them about the problems that they have in their marriage. Quite often, the partners are thinking about a rebuttal instead of actually listening. And they’re not really they’re looking for a solution to the marriage, they’re looking just for permission to basically exit. And, sadly, that’s the case it is with marriages. And as a result, we have so many divorces, and so many, so many people, we have a 50% divorce rate, but we have a lot of couples that are really unhappy. And we don’t really know what that number is. But it’s pretty much the same rate here on family farms as well. And the truth is, nobody gets married to them thinking that they’re gonna get divorced, nobody goes home to farm with their families, and they’re going to have problems working with their families. And yet we are having problems working together as a team. And we got to get rid of that you’re in the wrong and I’m in the right. And get rid of that I’m smarter than you attitude we have both in our marriages and also in our farming partnerships, and start making smarter decisions together as a family.

EMILIE: You offer a free master course, on your website, which I love how you’ve described, you know, it’s a lot about self-reflection, right? And thinking about how can I start to make some changes. And for anyone who’s interested after hearing our conversation today, I strongly suggest that they go check it out. But one thing when I was listening to Andy, that really stuck out to me is your reference to saying that most people in agriculture have heard before. And even if it makes us cringe, it certainly is one that we have either experienced or watched take place and you say, one generation it takes one generation to build a farm, one generation to grow the farm, and one generation to lose the farm. Yeah, how can we break this cycle? Andy?

ANDY: Well, I created the marriage. I created the masterclass because, you know, just like, priests and preachers created that pre-marriage counseling before young couples got married, because they actually would have married couples before they came, got married, for instance. And the young couple would be so much in love, and it’d be such a wonderful wedding ceremony. And then 10 years later, they’d be at odds with each other. And that’s because they got into the relationship expecting it was going to be sunshine unicorns. And I really think that we need to get realistic and identify potential landmines. And, and, and really, like a lot of these problems a marriage, married couples had were taboo topics that nobody would talk about openly in the community, like sex and financial issues, or who’s doing the dishes? Well, the same way there’s, I as somebody that’s saved family farms for the last 15 years, there’s so many things that are our common family topics like how do we make decisions together as a family? How do we transition wisdom and make sure that the son and daughter can take their performance from good to great, how do we deal with character flaws like anger, man anger, and get anger management as a core strength as a family instead of a weakness? These are the potential landmines that you know anybody could anticipate. But it’s a taboo topic we laugh about in the rural community, but we don’t actually deal with so that’s what this course is all about is helping you identify potential landmines in your relationship, as you get started in your farming partnership as a son and daughter come home on the farm after college and careers, and they transition from parent-child to professional working relationship. And that’s what this masterclass is all about.

EMILIE: You know, I think it’s something that we at HitchPin believes strongly in Andy. And when Trevor, our founder was first thinking about launching HitchPin, one of the things that he was really thinking about is how do multi-generations be supported in a family operation? And what are some of the ways you can diversify your operation and bring in a new book of business and that sort of thing? And think outside the box, maybe from what your family traditionally focused on to some new ideas and some new business opportunities. And so one thing that you mentioned in your master course, was the 9000-hour rule. So tell our listeners a little bit more about that.

ANDY: Well, I just think as a son, for a lot of farming families, the word succession is a dirty word, and simply put, quite often a family has a conversation about succession planning, and everybody walks into that meeting expecting that to be a two-hour meeting. Where they walk in and what they expect will happen and they quickly get upset that their partners have completely different expectations. And, you know, what should be an afternoon conversation turns into attending your family feud. And you know, for a lot of parents, the word succession to them means early retirement are being pushed out of the operation. And that’s not what mom and dad, I mean, there’s a lot of Patriarchs that they would want to die with their boots on. And simply put, you know, a lot of succession planning these days, if you ask a lawyer or an accountant, it truthfully, there may be a lot of people that are in the early 20s going to farm succession planning seminars. But the truth is that the majority of succession planning is happening when the sons or daughters are in their late 40s, or 30s, early 40s, sometimes their 50s sometimes the kids, the grandkids are, you know, mature adults, by the time that succession planning has happened. So we instead of there being one generation farming together, we got three generations farming together. So it’s kind of silly, I think that I mean, you wouldn’t go work for software startup, under the promise that, okay, if you work for us for 20 years, and help us really increase the value of this business, we might give you some equity in the business, right? I mean, that, that wouldn’t happen with a non relative, but it happens too often that the sons and daughters have been there for 20 years and don’t own the house they live in or the truck they drive. And there’s a lot of tension built up within the family because of that, the trust is just not there. And so what makes sense to me is that as a son or daughter come home on the farm, there, there’s also the issue that there’s lots of leaders that are on the farm, because they don’t know what else to do with their, with their family. The thing is that there’s a lot of sons and daughters just kind of fall into the farm. And they, they work on the farm for a couple of years thinking that they’re just going to try to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. And suddenly life happens and they’re in their 40s. And they’re in, they’re living somebody else’s dream. And they feel really trapped. And they feel a lot of obligation to carry on a family tradition, even though that’s not really what they want. So when I suggest every friend and family is that as a son and daughter comes home to the farm, they work, at least, the average farmer works about 3000 hours a year. And so for three years, you have what I call the 9000 hour rule. And you basically work three years. And every month you sit down with your family and get a performance review, and get feedback as to how can I take my performance from good to great. And you do that by talking about a new skill that you can be learning on the farm. Such as bookkeeping, for instance, you can learn, you can take, you can look at the core family values of what made the farm successful. And talk about some pet peeves that’s not in accordance with what made the farmer successful. So that you know the successor takes a performance from good to great. So say for instance, if a son or daughter sleeps in and is late to work, you know, they wouldn’t get away with that if they were non relative. So every month is this instead of being passive aggressive and waiting five years to farm succession meeting, and then dad mentioning that you slept in for last five years, be proactive, don’t be passive aggressive, be proactive, identify core problems, and just take their successors performers from good to great for the first three years that they’re home. So they’re not just a successor with potential but they’re realizing their full potential. And then the final thing is talk about character. And you know, whether you have a problem drinking or you have a problem that procrastination,bad habits, kill family farms. And, you know, if you can every month take one, one quality motor your character and take it from good to great, you can improve how you guys work together, obviously, but more importantly, improve the probability that farm still being ran by a competent manager 30 years down the road. And see, the root issue with a third generation curse is that any fool can give a son or daughter tractor but very few farmers are successful in teaching the kids how to make that tractor pay. And so if the first three years of the sons and daughters coming home, you take them from good to great, then you’ve got quality successors, you’ve transitioned to management first before we start talking about the transmission of assets. And then after you put in 9000 hours, you can decide for yourself do I want to be a foreign or not? And then if you are actually serious and you’ve proven yourself as competent potential potential manager just like if you work for three, three years software company, then you can get a option plan for earning equity in the business, just the same as if you went to work a different time. For a company, and to me that makes sense to have that conversation about how the sons and daughters gonna earn equity in the growth of the farm business over the next 20 years, instead of going 20 years and being a mystery, and everybody having different expectations, and it’s just a big fight at a funeral.

EMILIE: Yeah, absolutely. So what’s your recommendation is, is to actually have that conversation after the 9000 hours. And, and then start charting out a plan. So like you said, you’re having that conversation early enough on but after there’s been some sweat equity, if you will.

ANDY: Yeah, put the, prove that you want to be there. There’s time to get on the right now. It also provides your other siblings that may have an off farm career. So say, say your sister is a school teacher. And and she sees the opportunity you’re being given, she says, I would like to do have the same opportunity that she puts into 9000 hours, if she proves herself be competent, then you have a discussion of how we’re going to create expand this farm so that it’s able to support three families, right, so that you have the same opportunity to earn equity as I do, and don’t have that conversation upfront instead of 30 years down the road. And having somebody that’s not involved in the farm for the last 30 years, jealous of the opportunity, the son and daughter that chose to stay at home had right having these discussions in when the sons and daughters in their early 20s instead of when they’re in their 50s is how you ensure the family will still get together for Christmas 50 years down the road on the farm.

EMILIE: So Andy, a follow up question to that you mentioned earlier, you know, sometimes you’ve got multiple generations who are living in houses that aren’t even their own, for example. So what do you think, good piece of real estate, a young farmer should consider buying first? Is it equipment? Is it land? Is it you know, houses, maybe on their operation? What what do you recommend?

ANDY: Well, I think the key concept is, first of all, is I think it’s what’s really important to long term success of a farm is knowing thyself, knowing what you want out of life, and and having a common vision by all the family members as to what you really want and having a crystal clear vision. Because quite often, we have very vague visions, and as a result, we get dysfunctional families in dysfunctional farms, because nobody’s crystal clear as to what they actually want. Everybody’s pulling the farm in different directions, and it’s over every decision. So the first piece, I mean, everybody’s kind of shocked when I say this, but I really think that the first piece of land the son and daughter should buy is, you know, often, accountants and lawyers are suggesting to farmers, you need to get your son into debt. So that he, by buying a farm down the road, so that he had he or she has a fear of getting out of bed in the morning. And here is not a way to really motivate somebody in is actually a way for somebody feel trapped. And so I would actually feel that strongly actually, that after the 9000 hours, if you decide that Yeah, I mean, to work on a farm in high school is a lot different than in your career. And it’s important to have a moment that it’s okay for you to change your mind. But once you’ve decided this is what I want to do the rest of my life, I always suggest the first piece of land that a young farmer buys, is the grave plot of that from a cemetery just down the road. You know, most family farms, they’re about there’s a family plot that, you know, it’s about 5-10 miles down the road, maybe the family even helps maintain that it might be a little rural community. You know, cemetery, my family is Bursgreen. And why I’m suggesting that you buy your grave plot, not only for yourself, but for your entire family that you’re going to be fine with is not a morbid thing. It’s a matter of, you know, saying, Okay, if we’re going to be perpetually for the rest for eternity, 10 feet from each other, on this piece of land, how do we get the system set up so that we can actually be five feet from each other at any point in time, and not miss the hell out of each other. And there’s a lot of families that, you know, I just had a meeting this morning with with two brothers that that have, like I forced the two of them to be in a Zoom meeting. And to be five feet from each other. They hadn’t been five feet from each other in over a year. And that’s because the two of them were not very well communicating. I mean, they couldn’t be in the same room as each other couldn’t stand each other. And and so that’s because the two of them had different visions of the farm. They have different visions as to what was important with their lives. And so what I think is really important is that the family has a conversation about what success is and gets crystal clear. As to what they’re working towards, and using the context, okay, between now the time that I’m going to let’s not don’t talk about what success is, theoretically, what do I actually want to do between now and the time that I’m going to be in this gravesite? And I don’t know if I’m going to be, we don’t know if it’s going to happen two weeks from now, or if it’s going to happen 20 years now, or 50 years from now, we don’t know. But what does success look like every day? What kind of environment we want on this farm? And what do we want? Why do we farm, what’s really important, and if you can get that crystal clear, in everybody’s mind what success is, and then all the sacrifices that are necessary to farm, they won’t be such big sacrifices, because everybody’s motivated towards the same goals. And all those distractions that come in life will go by the wayside. And I think in farming, if you can get everybody from button hasn’t fallen from different directions to everybody on the same page, working towards the same vision. It’s amazing what you can accomplish. And I think as farmers, you know, we’re in the business of land stewardship. Absolutely, for the whole family to have a crystal clear vision as as to what you want to do with your life, and then the land that surrounds that, that where you’re going to eventually become part of the soil. It’s a whole fact of stewardship, what is it we want to do with our lives. And if you can actually capture that, and almost get it to the point that you’d be willing to put a time capsule in where you were cemetery plots going to be. And write it down on just simple cue card. These are the things that are important to me, these are the five things or three things that are important to me. And you understand what’s important, your mom and dad might be slightly different. But you respect how they’re different. And your sister that farms with you, she might farm for different reasons. But you understand what those reasons are. You’ll get rid of these cores, your family fights, and everybody will be have fun farming together.

EMILIE: So perhaps it’s redefining what’s the word succession really means or what we have associated it to mean.

ANDY: We’ve got to define what success is, rather than what we fear.

EMILIE: Yeah. And as you shared earlier, succession really is success and change. And I think how you successfully navigate the changes both together and then when maybe you’re the one who’s left to make the decisions and to bring on the next generation, right?

ANDY: Yeah, I mean, actually succession. If you look at the word, if you split it up, there’s the word success. And then I-O-N and  is actually a Greek word for change, right? I mean, action, traction, these type of things reflect change. That’s actually a Greek word for change. And so what you got to do to find is clearly what the success is in your operation and how you’re going to make changes within your operation towards those goals. If you can clearly define that from the start, you can get a lot rid of a lot of bickering, you can really have a successful farmers result.

EMILIE: We’ll be right back after this short break. Another happy tales from HitchPin sales, this one from Callahan in Kansas, moving to a new rural community in Kansas and starting a small seed stock operation was certainly an adjustment. I knew access to hay and feed wasn’t going to be an issue. But I just didn’t know who to contact that put up hay in the area. HitchPin gave me an easy solution to search for exactly what I needed and wanted, the app was very easy to use, and to get a hold of the seller. The innovation and connection that HitchPin offers is a game changer in the evolving agricultural landscape.

EMILIE: Okay, so let’s dive down to the 5000 foot level. Now, you asked a really poignant question in your master class, and you just referenced it a few minutes ago. Do you want this life? Or is it someone else’s dream? How do you advise someone to truly answer such a big question like that?

ANDY: I would say, for me, I mean, there’s a lot of different ways to do that. But I would say take a jackknife and ask yourself, what would you cut your finger off for? So I had a I had a farmer in Alabama, and he was about to get divorced. And he was about to lose the farm while he’s about to lose his relationship with his family. Because he got distracted by a lot of things in life. And that were he would not be willing to cut his finger off for and you know, and he wasn’t meant well make a lot of sacrifices. And so you know, he actually got on the knife for me it says my knife handle it says be the be the man. What does it say? Be the man you want your boys to become? That’s what I have my family. It really does drive me to do things differently day to day. For him it was how can I be the best farmer and husband in Alabama. And that completely changed around his marriage. And I think that for any farmer to really clearly find like a mantra that really drives your how you live your life can really make every I mean, every decision easier to make. And then if you actually have purchased that grave plot down the road, every time you come across, I mean, everybody comes across a crisis in life, where they don’t know what this dismay and if you have a place to go that you can actually make that decision. And, and you actually know, okay in the reflection of whatever you want to accomplish if you can actually go stand at that grave, because it’s probably only a couple miles down down the road from your farm, it will completely change the way you look at things, and it will truly make you successful. Um, yeah.

EMILIE: So let’s assume that the answer is yes. This is the life that I want. It’s not someone else’s dream. It’s not well, it might be but it’s also my dream. Yeah. Where or perhaps, how do you start?

ANDY: Well, I think it meant as a matter of, I mean, we can have a whole philosophical conversation about Jesus and what happens after life. But I mean, if you have if you know where you’re going to go, right, as far as the grave site, then you can start looking at life as being finite. And often in farming, we treat time and money, and resources and relationships as if it’s infinite. And what I mean by that is that, you know, if we get stuck, I mean, we just have have a tendency as farmers to work harder, work more long hours, I had a farmer that he was he’s putting 20 hour days, he was only sleeping four hours a night. And his his wife made the comment, like he had not been that he had not set foot underneath the kitchen table in over a year. He didn’t even have time to be at Christmas dinner, he had to go calve a cow. And they just, I mean, they, she was like, I love my husband, I love my in-laws. But you know, we were apparently working so that we could make ends meet. Well, times are tight. Now money is good. And they just went and bought another track. They just went and bought the farm next door, they didn’t realize that, you know, we’re, this is not life. And she left him and I actually had to sit down with her Burger King. And her her father-in-law says no, when she married my son, I told her farming is a 24 hour a day job. And anyways, it was a matter of me get convincing them that, you know, you guys are treating time as if it’s infinite on your farm. And you’re wasting a lot of time doing things that don’t, don’t matter. And my question to them was, how do we spend, how do we focus 80% of our time on 20% on things that matter, and start treating time as if it’s infinite, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, we think as farmers of our airline ones with a work life balance issues. And the truth is like a lot of software entrepreneurs back in the 90s got divorced, and they lost their whole empires that they built. Because what’s the sense of building a business as successful if you don’t have a family to enjoy with. And so you go to a software conference, nowadays, the coffee sessions, they don’t want to talk about software codes, they want to talk about work life balance. And I think that that’s what we have to do in farming. I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger of all people. He says, there’s, you gotta sleep six hours a day, that leaves you 18 hours in a day, he says, if you got to sleep more and six hours a figure, you got to learn how to sleep faster. That gives you 18 hours in a day. And you show me how you spend those 18 hours. And I’ll show you where you’re going to be in 18 years. And I think the thing is that for my buddy that was actually became a client. We got him to, you know, chunk off his day and do something called time blocking, where he could spend more time with his family in a quality way. And instead of coming on home at night after the kids are in bed and falling asleep on the couch, you know, he got up early in the morning so he could be at home earlier. So you could spend more time on his knees playing with his kids. We got them are some milkers on the weekends, so that he could actuallyspend Sunday afternoons with his kids. His father actually got Saturday nights off. His father started more cycling. His father actually got cancer and died a year later. His father said to me, you know, had we not done time blocking with you, I would have missed out on the best year of my life. And I think the thing is, on a family farm, if you can get your family talking about time as if it’s money. It changes everything that as far as how you work together as a team, what you prioritize, being able to talk about how is dad or Uncle Jim going to spend their 18 hours? How are you make sure that your mom and dad, your dad is actually spending time more time with mom so they don’t get divorced? Because that’s a huge problem in agriculture. We don’t talk about the empty nesters are the ones getting divorced, not the Generation Y. Right. And that’s because time management is a big issue not just for the sons and daughters, but also the parents. And more importantly, how I mean, what’s the sense? What’s the sense in raising trust from your kids? Because quite often successful farms, the kids want nothing to do with the farm because they’ve never seen their dads, they don’t even know their dads, right? What’s this all about? And if we can get the family to actually talk about time as if it’s money. The first thing I do when I do a farm debt turnaround is get a family to look at time is money, and get better discussing about prioritizing that time. And if you can do that for two months, I could turn around the farm dramatically, because we get talking about priorities, and how to invest things. And so we started talking about investing in relation investing. As far as doing farm debt turnarounds. As far as reassigning resources, if you can get a family talking about time for two months, talking about where the money goes, goes, and where’s the best use easily goes is 10 times easier once you’ve had that two months of conversation with time. And you can turn around your farm just like that. So if I was a succession planner, if I was a kid coming home to farm, the first thing I would do on a Monday morning is get the family discussing who’s doing what for the week, and that every night at sunset, have a phone call, planning as to how the plan is going to tweak tomorrow so that everybody knows what the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. And you get good as a family talk about how the prioritization of time and treat time as if it’s money, and you have a quality of life and a quality successful farm as a result.

EMILIE: I love that. 

ANDY: Sorry for being a monologue here. 

EMILIE: No, it’s so good. It’s so good. And you know, Andy, I have a question for you too. Because sometimes over the course of the time that families are farming together, you know, there’s a mutual desire for the farm to to be successful. What happens if or when goals change? How do you navigate when dreams either, you know, when they’re different when the next generation wants to take something in a new direction? And obviously, you shared about talking about it and being very transparent with those dreams and desires. But what do you suggest that people can do to navigate that change that inevitably is going to come to their family farm?

ANDY: Well, I often see succession planners, especially 15 years ago, when I started mentoring under law succession planners, they’d have books that thick as to what to do and different scenarios. Essentially, I’d be sitting there I’d be gone, like observing how these people did things. And basically, it created a whole lot of anxiety, like what to do on death, this disability divorce or, or drugs, like they had all spelled out as to all the different problems. And I remember watching walking onto a farm. And they had paperwork that thick, and they pulled it from me. And essentially what had happened is one of the brothers had died. And the woman that she had a baby in her arms and a baby in her belly when her husband died. And 10 years later, they hadn’t ever resolved a lot of those issues. Because they had never figured out how to make decisions together as a family. They had a huge, thick plan, they had the lawyer, it actually flown me in to Montana, to sort out that situation. And was simply put the family sucked at making decisions together. The one thing I can tell you for a fact is that no matter how much planning you do and in advance, you’re always going to have problems you can’t anticipate. That’s the only thing I can tell you for certain. And I think the thing is, you gotta get good at problem solving, how you problem solve itself. And I think the better you can get at problem solving small little decisions, then get really good at weighing the pros and cons a little things, then the easier it is for handling bigger problems. So what I always make an analogy of is it’s like building a fire. You start with a small kindling first, not the big logs. And quite often when you know succession planning is just simply strategic planning. And the problem that we have is that a family that’s that’s bickering over simple production related decisions. I remember like I walked in a family meeting and they were having a 20 minute argument before we even started our discussion about succession planning as to whether we’re the son-in-law was going to put a water bowl and father and son in law were bickering about that while I was like how can we possibly talk for the farmer is going to be in 10 years time and they want to get the succession planning and not in two hours I said yes you can do in two hours but you guys got to learn how to make small decisions first, and learn to weigh the pros and cons and get rid of this pissing contest that’s going on between you and if you can get a family from butting heads and pulling the farm in different directions to being able to sit down make decisions together and get everybody pulling the same direction, farming’s easy. Right? We get rid of all that shenanigans by the wayside and anything he really can do to improve quality decision making that’s going to skyrocket your profitability so I would suggest that you gotta get rid of the stubborn first before and as result anything the world throws at you you guys can handle as a family and in succession planning just a snap.

EMILIE: Andy, could you explain what the Coming Home to the Farm program is?

ANDY: I think we explained a little bit before but the thing is it’s a free masterclass. You go to my website So you go to There’s a free masterclass on website is called Farming Through Stubborn Family for several different farming organizations we offer and as Coming Home Farm program, it’s the same program. But essentially, it’s a 10 minute a day course, where you sign up, it’s free, I’ll send you an email, it’s like, so simple. If you can open an email and click on a video is as simple as 10 minute video, you watch, I asked three, three thought-provoking questions. So it takes about 10 minutes a day to go through you can do while you’re having your breakfast. And that’s what it’s meant to do. And then if you go through the course, I’ll sit down with you at the end of the week. And then we’ll talk about problem areas and farm that you currently have. And some practical ideas from the course how to apply your operation. And if you like the course, after you’ve sat down with me, I can sit down with your family can you can say your rest of your family. Hey, I took this course I think we actually could use some ideas from this. So you can either apply those ideas yourself, or if you want to get your whole family to go through the course and then I can sit down each individual and then we can actually have a whole family afternoon conversation. And if you could take the course and get everybody takes a course I’ll sit down with for an hour for free. And simply put, we can just improve the odds of your family still farming together three years down the road. It’s like pre marriage class before you marry the farm. And what I’ve actually found is that a lot of… So 15 years ago as me… I used to fly out as mediator to the family farm. And I have dealt with, I’ve been the guy that’s called in for the most dire situations. And what I actually found is that I didn’t anticipate we started offering this course I anticipate it would just be farm kids coming home of the farm taking this course we’ve had a lot of sons and daughters where they’re, you know, up to their eyeballs in problems. And they’re in the 30s or 40s or 50s. For them to take this course, it helps the family identify a couple areas that they can take how they work together from good to great. And it’s really acts as well who were unbreak the logjam. And it’s actually gotten rid of the need for mediator altogether. And so I’m really happy about that, that I got rid of my whole profession. I really do think is a game changer. And if we can help improve the odds of your family still farming together. Fantastic. And what excites me is, you know, a lot of families that are taking this course are good families, and just takes their how they work together from good to great so that farming next 20 years is fun.

EMILIE: Give our listeners just a little teaser for if they were to go in and listen, sign up for the master course. What are three, maybe little nuggets of wisdom that they’re going to take away from going through that course and working with you, Andy?

ANDY: Well, I’ll give you the I’ll just give you the goods of what I do. And simply put this is an idea that anybody can copy. Right? It’s so simple. And I love you all to copy it. I mean, the more farms that can do this, the better. It’s just simply, if you can make one improvement to how I mean, basically, every time I meet with a family, we sit down for 25 meetings, and we just everybody comes to the table with an idea to improve farm profit can’t cost more than $1000. But it’s got to return at least $3000. So what we do is everybody comes to the table with new ideas to improve the efficiency of the operation. And yes, if the average meeting we’re making $10,000 which easily justifies the cost of my services. But more importantly, we get farming families to stop bickering with each other. Just stop pushing their agendas, they actually stop having that I’m smarter than you attitude and start making smarter decisions together as a family as a result of that process. So you can take any family as bickering and over 25 means we get it just just take how you guys make decisions to go from good to great to have sophisticated level, then succession planning is a snap, another two things is, is that we make one improvement to how you guys work together, every meeting, it might be as simple as suggesting, hey, sunset, plan the next day have a phone call, who’s doing whatsoever, when everybody gets out of bed in the morning, you at least have a plan of attack. I mean, no day goes as planned, that everybody the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. Everybody, you get more out of your day as a result. And the third thing is just how to take your character. So every meeting, we talked about how to take your character from good to great for for the family. So some like common like, temper. A lot of families have a temper, and they’re… 

EMILIE: No, no, not when we’re working cattle. 

ANDY: No, I know. The question is, how do you I mean, something like how do you turn, turn a mountain into a molehill. And that’s like a character habit that that can go from zero to 60. And if you can change that habit from weakness to strength, and you can have 25 meetings, I meet with families every other week. So if you can make a make one character improvement every other week, and then you’re held accountable for six months after to follow through with those character changes. If you can do that, if you can make one improvement, every week, you can make one improvement. And finally, every time you meet one improvement in farm efficiency, one improvement how you work together, and one improvement in everybody’s character. You know, that’s three meetings, you could meet for 25 times in the course of the year, every other week. That’s 75 improvements to how your operation functions. And it’ll be 300% different. Now, that’s something you can do yourself. I’ve got a weight loss program that I had the book for years, and sometimes some folks need, you know, somebody to help them get into habits. And that’s what I do. So that’s that’s the crux of my business. This is what I learned over 15 years. It’s a simple process, but actually putting it into reality will improve the probability of your family still farming together 30 years down the road. And then succession planning after that is a snap, because you’re able to sit down, make good decisions together as a family and you’ve got a good quality successor that you’ve taken from good to great, and they’ve taken them from their potential to their full potential as a result of improving the character, and how you guys work together as a family.

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EMILIE: I’m gonna ask you another question, Andy. And, you know, I think whether you’re in farming, or you’re in any sort of business that you own, and you’ve you’ve built, talking about succession isn’t always comfortable and isn’t always easy. And I love that you’re helping people to do that and normalize the conversation. Yeah. Another thing that I think a lot of us don’t like to talk about is our own emotional health. And you you just referenced it. And in I kind of joked about oh, no, that never happens. But the reality is, it is something that I think only we can only we can fix in ourselves. And so, talk to our listeners a little bit about the importance of addressing emotional health, really, no matter what field you’re in.

ANDY: Well, I think on the family farm, like there’s a reason why farmers are the top five profession, I think there’s the next at war veterans, the worst farmer suicides. And, you know, we might have seminars blaming the markets and the weather. But the truth is a percent of the real issues in my perspective, I mean, this is not scientific, but this is my experience of, I’ve been the guy that’s dealt with most dire situations last 15 years across North America. I’ve taken guns out of suicidal farmers hands more times tand I’ve got fingers and that’s why I really been hell bent to change how we do things. Because the way we’re doing succession planning, the way we’re doing farm management is just completely broken. And what it comes down to, is 80% of the time we’re going home to after working with our family. We just spent the day butting heads and we’re just really frustrated. We don’t feel in control of the farm. We don’t control it feel control of our personal lives. And it’s just killing us in so many different levels, the stress that’s created. And you know, I think the thing is that it almost killed me. I don’t want to get into too much, but I it almost killed me. And what I realized, you know, I’m the last guy that I’d ever expect to be doing something like this, but I’m hell bent to help as many farmers as I can. And I think that the root issue, we talked about mental health, but the real problem is emotional health and mental health is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Emotional health is the way you look at life, the way your thoughts and feelings about things and, you know, if you have diabetes, go in for medication, right? If you have chemical imbalance in your brain, you gotta go in and get medication. But we shouldn’t be talking just like with diabetes, we should talk about environmental factors such as diet and health. With mental health issues, we really gonna start talking about emotional health and how it affects the stress is how that is how what’s catalyzing families to have, and farmers to be mentally unwell. And it’s just like, you know, you can’t prevent a thought from entering your mind. But you can sure its like a light like this, this, this lighter without any fuel on is really of no danger, right? If it was if it was full, yeah, it would be somewhat, if the lighter’s full would be somewhat somewhat of a danger. If it was beside a fuel tank, it’d be extremely dangerous. And the problem is, is that you know, how often do we go from zero to 60 when turning a molehill into a mountain? Right making things 10 times worse than they are. And perspective is everything. And, you know, a lot of psychology is based on like cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s all based on ancient wisdom from the Greek philosophers actually. And so if you I mean, if you can, if you can learn to look at life, and from a different perspective, you know, it can really changed the outcome. And I really think that, that what I’ve studied over the last 15 years, is how can farmers take the wisdom of the ancient stoics? And how can we look at things in a different way and have emotional health on the family farm. And that’s by some practical measures, on changing how we work together as a family. And also just, you know, me talking to a farmer one on one, and changing a belief from an incorrect belief to correct a belief or changing, suggesting a different way for you to have a character, you know, how can we have different anger, coping skills, or just simply a skill deficiency that where you’re frustrating yourself, you don’t have the skills, you shouldn’t be getting a skill so that you have don’t have the stress. And so that’s what how I think we’ll save a lot family farms. And that’s how I have over the last 15 years, saved hundreds of family farms.

EMILIE: I love that so much. And you can you can really see it in people who have put the work in and have had the hard conversations and have made a plan. You know, I think so much of the emotional highs and lows come from the unknowns and things that we perceive are out of our control. So I love how you say, you know, control what you can control. And sometimes that’s getting a plan in place that’s walking through what the future of your farm and your legacy looks like. And so I love how those are all very closely intertwined. And you can just kind of see that the weight off of the shoulders of the folks who have gone through the exercise of working with you and getting that plan, really figured it out.

ANDY: Yeah, I mean, like, even sounds so simple as a serenity prayer. I see farmers get so obsessed about things they cannot control. And the Serenity Prayer says, and I’ll probably screw this up, but God gave me the wisdom, wisdom, to identify the things I can control the things I can’t control and the wisdom, know the difference. And the thing is it sounds so simple as those two lines can completely change the whole perspective of a farmer. I mean, I had a farmer, just in Minnesota, he was so obsessed with, you know, there was a state planning done. And he was 100 acre short on compared to his siblings, and it became so obsessed with that. And yeah, he was worth $10 million. And he was so obsessed to how he’s shortchanged. And that became such an obsession he was about to it was really affecting his business, because he was depressed, and his management decisions as a result of that. And also, I mean, he was not talking to his father and his other siblings as well. And you know, simply two lines just completely changes. I mean, his wife was about to divorce him. Two linees changed his life. And that’s simple. I mean, I could give you hundreds of examples of where some as simple as a phrase from a stoic wisdom such as from Seneca or Aristotle, you can just complete a chant of man’s perspective. And I think that perspective is what we got changed, nor have the problem improve the probability your family still far ago, 30 years down the road.

EMILIE: Well, to continue with our aviation reference, Andy, let’s drop the landing wheels. What is something that you wish everyone knew about family farm transitions?

ANDY: I think the biggest thing I wish everybody knew is that two things is that it’s gonna be 30 years and then you’re gonna be fine with your family. Quite often, when kids come home to the farm dad says I’m gonna farm for another five years well, BS. I mean, if he’s a die-hard farmer, he wants to farm to the day he dies. I mean, he secretly feels that he has to say that in order to because his, you know, his wife wants him to do more than just farm. Well, the question is gotta be how do we have a good balance between work and life? Balance, right? And how can I how can I have fun farming, but also have fun beyond work? Right? That’s really what his wife wants. I mean, simply put a lot of spouses, they that farmers, so they sell a farm, and then they drive their wives crazy. Because they’re adjusting the paintings, right? So the thing is, is that the whole idea about one generation farmer at a time is old news. I mean, the simple thought, but it’s gonna be three generations farmer together. So you got to learn how to go from butting heads to being able to be on the same page and everybody pulling the same direction. And the second thing is, you know, if you have a family that is stubborn, you know, why should it be a two hour conversation, it’s going to be 10 year family feud. And quite often see family members. They’re so stubborn with each other. It’s like cavemen sitting around the kitchen table and expecting dad to carve up the pie. And either everybody is reaching for the pie and pie gets in everybody’s face, or somebody’s got the piece pie underneath their arm, and they’re running down the road. And there’s a mob chasing after them. And the thing is, is that we got to talk about what made the farm successful. And make sure that what’s the recipe for success, and make sure that that continues on for generations. And we got to get rid of stubborn and we got we got to learn table manners, instead of being caveman around the kitchen table reaching for, for the scraps, we got to learn how to work together how to how we can bake more pies, so that generations can still be farming down the road. And that’s by fixing turns stubborn from a weakness to strength. And that’s by stop being stubborn with each other and start being stubborn and the critical habits that make a farm successful.

EMILIE: How would those kiddos of yours describe Andy today? 

ANDY: My boys? 


ANDY: Wow, that’s a good question. That I just love to save family farms. That’s just, I’m in the business of improving the odds of farmers working together 30 years down the road. So they know that their daddy, I get up at four o’clock every morning. And I spent the first two hours reading whatever I have to read in order to get better what I do. And I tried to to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk and living a balanced work life balance. I mean, I tried to shut it down at night at five o’clock. And so I can spend a couple hours with my kids and really have a good work life balance as well. But yeah, I live to say family farms and I’m very passionate about it.

EMILIE: Well, I know that they can be incredibly proud to call you dad. Well, Andy, I just want to say thank you so much for joining me today for Plow and Pencil. And I want to encourage our listeners to join your community of success and go to Make sure that you’re looking for Andy’s book, Bulletproof Your Farm, and sign up for that master class and get some more nuggets of wisdom from Andy.

ANDY: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. And go to end thing is if anybody with this the first time we met but if anybody wants to go deep dive about a certain topic, just throw out the topic subjects and you know, maybe we can visit back later on this year. 

EMILIE: And I would love that. Yes, I want to I want to dive deeper into it. And you know, the thing is together. That’s exactly right. That’s right. HitchPin and Andy, we’re coming together help you.

ANDY: And I love your company’s mission. So yeah,

EMILIE: Well, thank you we we laugh because, you know, it’s it’s not uncommon for the younger generations to be more technologically a open to trying some new marketplaces and some new technology. And so we’re, we’re really excited when family farms are working together and you can have the teaching we all do. As with the old teaching the young so it’s all it’s all wheels going in the same direction, right? 

ANDY: Absolutely.