Ten miles south of Macomb is where Riggins Farms has been for the past 100-plus years. Currently, three generations of Riggins are working on the farm – my grandpa, Jerry; my dad, Andy; and me.

Having three generations working together may seem impossible. Sometimes it is. But most of the time, it is about learning from one another.

Lessons we learn from older generations can be some of the best lessons we can learn in a lifetime. Most of the time, I am the one learning from them, but there are times when I can teach them a lesson or two. Finding a way to communicate can be a struggle sometimes, but it is possible if you work together. Here is just one example of my family finding a way to work together on our family farm.

One job on the farm that all three of us take pride in doing together is loading out hogs of our two hog barns.

Everyone has a role to play, and communication is key to ensure the task is completed in a timely manner.

Grandpa and I sort the hogs in the pen, while dad loads the semi truck. My role is to be the in-between girl. This means I take the hogs from the pen to my dad. He gives me the number of hogs he needs and I bring them to him. When I get back to the pen, I tell grandpa how many pigs dad needs and then we get them.

Now that we’ve done this for many years, we know exactly what to do when a pig needs to be sorted so we can get just the right amount. Nonverbal communication with one another is what has grown between the three of us. Body language between grandpa and dad allows me to know how I am needed to assist in the task getting accomplished.

We need to be able to understand that clear communication is key to the success of quick and efficient work. Using nonverbal and verbal communication with one another has really allowed us to grow as a family.

As I have gotten older, I have learned how important it is to be a good communicator. We, as a family, are constantly communicating with one another. No matter if it is working pigs or cows, it takes a family effort to get the task done.

Communication has changed over the years. My generation finds it best to send a quick text message or sometimes we would rather FaceTime if possible.

While my dad is willing to communicate this way with me, my grandpa does not communicate this way. If he needs something and has some questions, you can count on getting a phone call from him. But if it is a short message he will send a text.

The lesson to be learned from him is that we need to be adaptable to all types of communication.

In today’s world, people are working much longer than they used to. Three generations working together is something we will all experience at some point in our lives.

Having a way to communicate and work with other generations will allow you to set yourself apart from others. While working on my family’s farm, I have learned how to communicate with different generations.

Communication through different generations can sometimes change. But if we take the time to listen and understand where they are coming from, we can accomplish anything that is placed in front of us.

Katie Riggins is a senior studying agriculture education at Western Illinois University, Macomb, and will be a student teacher in spring 2023.