We all know stories of family members, especially kids, who want to return to the farm. Either they've had a less-than-pleasant off-farm work experience or simply want to get back to the soil.

For someone like me, who spends a lot of time at a computer, the compelling call to return to farming has always been during harvest.

I'll admit, hours and hours on a tractor or windrower got darned tedious when I was a kid. But I was like a horse at the gate at harvest time. Maybe it was seeing the fruits of our labor or maybe it was the close of a work-filled year. Regardless, that's the time I — and many of my fellow ag journalists — miss most.

But there are as many examples of poorly executed back-to-the-farm situations as well-planned, prosperous ones. So what makes one situation work and not another?

In this issue, Senior Editor John Russnogle profiles two family operations where a son and daughter are coming back to the farm.

Nebraskans Carly and Jeff Johnson, who will farm with her parents, have allowed Soybean Digest's risk management specialist, Moe Russell, to provide guidance during the transition. We'll track the Johnsons' progress through their first years as farmers. We'll give you a glimpse of the successes and failures, and how Russell counsels the couple to make decisions that will keep them on the farm.

We'll keep track of Rusty Olson, Garner, IA, who is also a part of this story. Please see “Returning To The Farm,” page 12, for the first installment.

The issue of returning to the farm transcends farm size. With project stories like this, Soybean Digest hopes to provide information for family farmers who find adding a son or daughter to the operation a challenge.

However, large or small, returning to the farm happens less and less these days. In 1987, according to the U.S. Census, 336,000 farmers were under the age of 45. By 1997, that had dropped by more than 100,000 to 228,000. For the record, Soybean Digest's average reader age is 53.7.

Obviously, fewer young folk are coming home. As one Iowa farmer says, “When I started farming 20 years ago, a buddy and I were the youngest farmers in the neighborhood. That's still true today.”

Commodity Classic

Just a reminder that Commodity Classic is Feb. 27-March 1 in Charlotte, NC. For registration information, call 636-928-3700 or go to www.commodityclassic.com.