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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