BEEF Daily

Which Skills Do You Have That Your Grandkids Don’t?


Multi-generation operations have plenty of challenges, but the biggest might be a communication and experience gap that is hard to connect. What skills does the older generation have that the younger generations have lost?

I spent a few days in Great Falls, MT, this week at the 2013 Montana Association of Conservation Districts State Convention. I was the keynote speaker talking about issues the beef industry faces and how we can better respond via social media outlets. Although I received positive reviews after my presentation, gazing the crowd beforehand and seeing the average age of the group, I wasn’t so sure how well it would go over.

After all, I’ve had firsthand experience trying to teach my parents and grandparents how to use social media. Grandpa jokes that he can’t turn on the computer; Grandma likes email but the ads on Facebook overwhelm her; Dad likes reading my blog, but thinks I'm too controversial at times; Mom is the only one who really has the hang of it, often taking photos of the cattle and her kids on the ranch and posting them to Facebook.

Meanwhile, I’m in the generation that grew up with computers and the Internet. Facebook was created while I was still in high school, so communicating online is second nature to me. But when I start to think I’m tech savvy, I just need to talk to my 17-year-old sister to see how far I lag behind the folks younger than me. My sister Kaley has more apps than a Christmas tree has bulbs, and Snap Chat has replaced her texting and calling ways of communication.


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With each generation, old lessons will be lost and new ones will be gained. I was recently sent a BuzzFeed link to “13 Skills Your Grandparents Had That You Don’t.” I think it’s an apropos topic when you consider today’s beef industry and how multiple generations work and interact together on a ranch, and try to communicate despite an age and experience gap that can be hard to bridge at times.

According to the BuzzFeed piece, the list of skills the younger generation is losing include: the ability to write legibly, being able to fix your car and do basic home maintenance, the ability to use a real map, writing a check properly, knowing how to tie multiple types of knots, knowing how to sew beyond putting on a button, knowing how to raise crops and livestock, and socializing without checking your phone every two minutes. You can see the entire Buzz Feed list here.

I’ll admit that a few of these skills I no longer use very much just because modern technology has created new, cheaper and easier ways to do things – wrinkle-free fabrics, for instance. Of course, growing up on a farm, I think I’m probably more self-reliant than a lot of city-raised kids. I learned from my parents and grandparents about how to garden, preserve fruits and vegetables, sew, and other basic skills more common to a rural upbringing. But, overall, we do live in a much more disposable society than past generations – convenience seems to be much more the rule today than in my grandparents’ time, for instance.

What do you think? Let’s start a conversation. If you’re of the older generation, what tasks and skills do you see as being lost on the younger generation? And if you’re among the younger generation on the farm, which skills do you wish you had, or are glad you no longer have to worry about? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 13

on Nov 21, 2013

I suppose the one really gripe I have is we seem not to use the cell phones for talking , just texting!!! I have said over and over to friend and family that if you want to carry-on a conversation with me then talk not text! I still believe verbal communication is much better than texting....I personally feel that I can verbally say what is needed a lot better than trying to type on these SMART phones...

Melody Benjamin (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

I would add spell and use proper grammar. These are both lost with handwriting.
Another would be sharing ideas and debate without doing a poll.
Understanding earth science enough to not need an app to be alert to potential changes.

Shirley Betzner (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

Getting off the couch to change the channel on the tv, or turn it up/down.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

I'm 18 and can do most of the things mentioned-just minus the car-fixing :)

lgrafft (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

I am 62, so been around a bit. Many of the younger kids I am around do not have the patience to sit and listen. Their communication skills are lacking because they spend more time texting than talking or listening.
Many lack the patience to see a task to it's completion. They have been brought up on an immediate gratification/fast paced society, and most of us still plod along at a snail's pace according to them. I am reminded of the tortoise and the hare.
Reliance on a society that is based on apps, GPS and electronic devices means that when there is a problem, you can't function. If, for example, you are travelling to a new location in the next state--don't worry, you have a GPS. But if the main road is blocked, or the signal is weak, without a map, you are pretty much stuck. I am from the midwest where newfangled tractors and seed monitors on planters are used extensively. If the seed monitor does not work, you can't plant corn, regardless of the weather.
I think we need to have simple fall back technology in place--just in case. If a cell tower system goes down, no one communicates. It might be a recipe for the next disaster.

W.E. (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

Agree with this 100%. We would add that if there isn't a keyboard around, we need to be able to communicate through cursive writing. As a former teacher, I know that far too many kids these days are virtually helpless and can't communicate without their
keypads. My applause to your family, Amanda, for teaching you how to garden, preserve fruits and vegetables, sew, and other basic skills. That kind of knowledge is also training in problems solving. Kids who don't have it lack the basic coping mechanisms that you instinctively turn to, and that help you to communicate across generations.

Farris Beasley (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

As mentioned above, their writing and spelling skills are woefully inadequate. Their public speaking skills are also weak. They talk in a monotone with no pauses or inflection for emphasis. They use the word "like" repeatedly in the same sentence.
With all their GPS technology, without help, they cannot locate North, South, East or West when they are standing in a familiar location. They cannot accurately point out the direction of major towns in the distance.

cowmandan (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

We are losing the ability to communicate with each other.Some people seem to act as if it is rude to call them instead of just texting them. I agree with above writers who question what happens when technology goes down. Many people can't function. It is really very sad.

on Nov 21, 2013

I recently went on the OR table. I told my wife before they put me out to make sure my grandchildren know three things.
1.How to raise livestock for food and draft.
2.How to farm and garden.
3.How to shoot.

Roy (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

How to milk a cow by hand. How to set a trap or snare for coyotes. How to gut a deer. How to build a fence brace. How to bake bread.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

I am of the younger generation and agree with most comments here. I am mostly self-taught in areas of farming/ranching as both my husband and I live far from family and have lost important people in our lives who could have taught us what we need to know. One thing I would like to say to the older folks is don't discount your knowledge. I know that's easier said than done, but when I can actually get my grandpa to talk about his knowledge (which is rare) it's a glorious thing. Some of us younger kids do want to learn, but it's hard to crack the shell at times. Carpentry skills is one thing I wish I would not have had to teach myself.

Colt (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2013

Technology is not to blam for what children are or aren't learning, my son (11) has iPads, game stations and all, but he can still run the backhoe, light welding, fix fence, trip a calf almost shoe a horse, and if his 4 wheeler brakes he starts into it with wrenches. It's finding the balance between the skills to make the Ranch go for the next generation and the skills to succeed in Town as well, technology is only a tool just like shoeing hammer used wrong it's no good used correctly it produces results.

Sandi (not verified)
on Nov 23, 2013

I'm an early generation, middle-aged Gen-Xer. Some of the reliance on technology we see in the Millennials and Gen-Z is really no different from the extreme TV watching and 24 hour entertainment -- CNN, ESPN, MTV -- which came of age during my generation. We were told to go read a book or go outside and play. The key was my parents limited TV time and exposed my sister and me to life outside the family room. As a result we learned to explore our world and give of ourselves to serve others.

As a veteran manager, I love working the Millennials and the fresh, techno-savy perspectives and results they develop. We as older adults share the responsibility to direct and encourage those younger than ourselves to look outside themselves and extreme technology dependance and learn how to think and do problem-solving without the Internet and smart phone. If we don't do this, we enable them to delay adulthood and responsibilities we need them to embrace to be functional, productive adults, employees, and caregivers.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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