Doing the Right Thing

Often, we know what we should do but hesitate to act. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, such as sending a note of encouragement to someone. However, it may have a large impact on the person receiving it.

We also hesitate to act on big items such as developing a plan for the future of our family farm.

The years tick away and in the back of our mind we know we should do something. Sometimes we have an idea what we want to do. However, questions taunt our confidence in the idea.

It’s easier to say or do nothing.  Disregard the fact we are all going to leave this earth someday. It’s the least successful method of transitioning the farm to the next generation.

Deciding What to Do

There may not be a “perfect” plan and each farm’s plan will be different. We each must make the best decision given the people, the farm and the available options.

A great place to start is initiating the conversation with those involved. Farming family members as well as those off the farm. It’s important to have the conversations so everyone knows what we’d like to do with the farm.

If we desire the farm to remain in agriculture production, a plan should be devised so farming family members may continue to farm the land.

It’s also possible to look outside the family for a farm successor, there are many young farmers seeking opportunities and a farm. It’s a matter of finding the right one for our farm.

Communication and Compromise

The succession planning process will require communication and compromise on everyone’s part to develop the final plan. If we share our desires as the senior generation, everyone has a starting point, and we can begin to discuss details and develop a plan and include compromises that may be required by both generations to accomplish the goal.

Many of us aren’t great communicators and sometimes we miscommunicate or what we say is taken the wrong way. A farm succession coordinator to facilitate the conversations may be helpful. Call PA Farm Link (717-705-2121) or email to be referred to a potential facilitator for farm family meetings.

Qualified Professionals

Engage qualified professionals that have experience doing what you want to do. Someone who has successfully worked with many farmers to develop succession plans and created required legal documents.

Qualified CPA, financial advisor, attorney and other professional team members are the ones who will work out the details allowing the plan to be put into place.

The Result

Once a written plan is in place it needs to be carried out. It’s important to keep in mind that the plan will continue to evolve over time. Changes may be necessary and that’s ok, they can be made.

Farms that lack a succession plan may not continue. Farms left equally to all heirs often have to be sold to settle the estate. In such situation’s heirs have different goals creating an impasse that requires the asset be sold to settle the estate. If an heir is currently farming the land, paying top market value for the farming purposes may not be financially feasible and the farm may sell for another use.

A well developed and carried out succession plan is the security our farm and family needs to continue agriculture production and maintain strong family ties.

Picture of Darlene Livingston

Darlene Livingston

has served as the Executive Director of PA Farm Link for 13 years. Leading the organization’s farm succession education and facilitation programs, assisting with farmer and land databases, beginning farmer and farm stress work.

Darlene has been instrumental in bringing farm succession to the forefront in Pennsylvania. Through her leadership two International Farm Transition Network Coordinator trainings have been held in Pennsylvania along with continued education programs for ag professionals.

Born and raised on a diversified farm, Darlene has a lifetime of farm experience working with three generations on the farm.

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