Four Tips for “The Talk”: Farm Transition Planning

Heins Family Dairy in Higginsville, MO ( Wyatt Bechtel )

Succession plans are hardly a sunshiny topic, but they are vitally important to upholding the farming traditions we value most. As you gather for holiday traditions this month, take time to plan meetings about farm transition planning.

These four tips in an article published by Michigan State Extension may help you get started.

1.    Start the conversation now.  It is senior leadership’s responsibility to engage younger generations in farm succession planning. Bring the heart of a teacher to these conversations so the next generation can fully understand each aspect of the farming operation and be comfortable asking questions. 

2.    Allow children to explore new ideas early. Teachers allow students to pursue their passions. Allowing idea exploration earlier than later means there is more time to recover in case a plan doesn’t work … and also more opportunity to build a succession plan around a successful idea.

3.    Have a plan for off-farm children. Separating personal and farm assets make conversations with off-farm children clearer. While personal assets can be evenly divided among off-farm children, it would be very, very challenging with current farm prices for on-farm children to purchase farm assets from off-farm children at full price. The earlier these conversations happen, the better.

4.    Have conversations with spouses who marry into the farm. Life gets messy, and divorces can wreck a family farm when farm assets and personal assets are not clearly distinguished before the marriage. Even if all family members’ marriages remain intact, it’s important to clearly communicate with spouses who believe they deserve a portion of the family farm income. Chore duties and exactly who will be making farm decisions are also important topics.

While farm succession conversations may be tough, it beats the alternative of delaying farm succession conversations to when your loved ones are already struggling through funeral planning. Your decades of investment into your family’s tradition of farming are best preserved when the conversations start early and clearly.

Related articles
5 Steps to a Succession Plan
Succession Planning: Have a Plan in Place
“This is a Family Business!?”