Growing up, I always assumed I’d run my own business. I tried to sell people wood projects I made and hired myself out for farm work on other people’s farms. More than a few times I demanded increases in wages from my parents; sometimes I got them if I made a decent case, such as the neighbor paying me considerably more than they were. They acted annoyed I wanted more money but I think they were secretly proud I valued my time and skills. They included me in business decisions although I think more for me to learn how they are made than for the valuable input of a 14-year-old boy on what tractor to buy. My answer, of course, was the fanciest one the dealer showed us regardless of price because you can’t put a value on the appeal of a working stereo and air conditioning.
Our children are getting lessons in what it takes to run their own business every day working with Emily and I, as well as their grandparents. I hope they pick up valuable knowledge, even if some months I’m not sure I’m doing that great of a job, business-wise. The world could use a lot more small businesses, and for that to happen there needs to be a lot more young people with the skills to make that happen. I felt growing up that outside of our farm everything I learned in school was preparing me to work for someone else. Even in college, there was a big push to build your resume and other such things that mean nothing if the only person looking at it will be yourself. I’m not all that confident that much has changed in education or society, in general, when it comes to expecting most people will be employees versus employers. But, I’m cautiously optimistic things are swinging back toward the entrepreneurial spirit that built this country.
“Young people don’t want careers anymore.” “The economy is switching to a short-term gig sort of employment model.” “People want more flexibility in their hours and the option to work from home.” Usually, those statements are part of some hand-wringing disappointed news piece either about how lazy the younger generation is or how hard it is to find workers for jobs that were never very rewarding and pay less now than they did three decades ago. I think those things are a sign more people want to work on their own terms, or in other words, be entrepreneurs. In agriculture, we know a thing or two about running small businesses so it’s no wonder there are so many documentaries about married couples fed up with the corporate world deciding to quit their jobs and start a vegetable farm. When people make a list of entrepreneurial occupations they quickly end up thinking of farming. 
In addition to working with us on the farm to earn money both for current desired objects as well as their futures, we encourage our kids to start their own ventures. Jonnie has a flock of ducks he cares for and sells eggs and butchered ducks from. Hannah gives farm tours and earns a surprising amount of tips. Erik wants to start a business repairing electronics and building custom computers. We’re proud they are taking steps toward shaping their own lives in a way they see fit. It probably won’t look like how Emily and I did it or how our parents did. The world has changed a lot in some ways and very little in others, but I believe as much now as I did as a kid that even if it’s not always awesome there’s no better way to live one’s life than as your own boss. At the whim of a bunch of cows. We don’t call them bossy for no reason.
Until next time, keep living the self-employed dream even if it hasn’t come true quite yet. And, remember that just because the cows are really the boss they don’t mind if you use the title.
Tim Zweber farms with his wife Emily, their three children and his parents Jon and Lisa by Elko, Minnesota.