By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy

Every farm and every farm family is unique. Beginning intergenerational farmers generally do not learn everything they need to be successful in a uniform or linear way. On different farms, the established generation may or may not be willing to share fieldwork responsibility, or be inclusive in planting and seed purchase decisions. But the sustainability of the family farm is too critical to rely on parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles to teach beginning farmers everything they need to know about the business of farming.

Marketing commodity grain is a topic that many beginning farmers may do well to learn more about. Prices are volatile, and beginning farmers are especially vulnerable to violent fluctuations because they do not have as reliable access to credit as established farmers. Topics like participating in futures markets are complex and worth studying. Futures allow farmers to access markets as they are anticipated to exist at a later time, mitigating risks associated with being too exposed to prices in the present. Establishing a price with a future contract protects the selling farmer from falling prices, reducing exposure to risk.

Iowa State University Extension offers resources that beginning farmers can consult to refresh themselves on the basics of selling futures. Materials like these can be critical to beginning farmers who want to supplement what they learn from working with family.


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