Kletke delivers stern message about farm transfers during Mahnomen conference
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 04/05/2012 1:58 PM
MAHNOMEN, Minn. —Farm meetings can be a time when farmers cheer their production efforts, but Les Kletke wants to offer producers more. In fact, the farm broadcaster says he just might offend them.
"But If you take one thing home that changes the way to do business, then it's worth it," he said at the Ag Trends Conference in Mahnomen.
Run the farm business as a business.
"If you treat farming as a business, it provides you a great lifestyle," he said. "If you treat it as a lifestyle, you won't stay in business for very long."
To stress his point, Kletke talked about diet changes over the last 15 to 20 years. Sunday dinners based on meat, potatoes and vegetables were once the mainstay, he said. Now its common to have lasagna, tacos or pizza.
Just as diet has changed, so must farmers think of changes to their operations.
The first change to make involves approaching the next generation, Kletke said.
When Kletke was born, his father was 55 and turned the farm over to his son at age 30.
"I got an early start," he said. "Most farm dads hold on longer."
While most would consider themselves good parents, Kletke wonders why we don't trust offspring to make management decisions.
"If we expect our kids to stay on the farm and take over what we believe is a good lifestyle and business, then we better let them make some decisions."
Kletke started a new business as a ghostwriter and said his daughter, 27, who has a good government job, broke into tears as he talked about his business. She asked if he thought of bringing someone from the family into his business on a part-time basis. She was interested.
"Maybe, just maybe I should practice what I preach and I should've talked to my family about taking over my business," he said.
He stressed the importance of talking to family and keeping the lines of communication open.
That includes respecting others' interests.
"If we don't treat family with respect and they leave, they are gone," he said. "But what can we do to change that? Wouldn't it be better to change our attitude and make a plan together to allow that next generation to get them involved?"
The entire direction of the farm doesn't have to change overnight, but it's important to try new things.
And it's important to keep an open mind and to try new things.
"I don't like beets, but at least I tried them once," he said.
His friend farms 20,000 acres and has a quarter section his friend calls his trial field. He tries a new crop. If it works, it earns a place in the rotation. They are working on a new crop all the time.
Kletke, who lives in Canada, was asked if U.S. farmers adapt to changes quicker.
"I think all farmers adapt to the conditions they are in," he said. "When they farm with a program, the adapt to that."
It will be difficult for Canadian farmers who relied on the Canadian Wheat Board to market for them.
Farmers have to make their own management decisions, he said. They need to be honest and include the price of farming and sell above that price.
"I am not saying you have to quit farming in the tough times," he said. "I am saying you have to manage it like a business."