Farms are Always Transitioned to Imperfect People

Are you waiting for that perfect moment when everyone is “ready” to successfully transition your family farm to a next generation? Many use that logic. But that moment will never occur.

There are no perfect moments or people. Our world is full of imperfect people striving to advance their skill set through experience and knowledge. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s deal with the imperfect reality.

An open mind is a huge asset for a farm transition. How so? Be open to listen to what the other person has to say, what their dreams are for the farm, and how they hope to accomplish those aspirations. When each truly hears what the other is saying, a bridge is built between the two parties – one that provides a strong foundation and solid future. Best results happen when the parties lay their “what ifs” on the table and let go of fears of the future’s unforeseen.

Trust provides a solid stepping stone when you know the next generation will do all in their power to ensure the farm’s success. The next generation’s goal is always success of the farm and to transition it to yet another generation. That’s the foundation of American agriculture.

Elements for Success

You can never start planning for transition too early. The greatest risk is starting too late. Next-gens can grow impatient and apply their energies to establish lives elsewhere, especially if they think it won’t happen through the family farm.

Bring everyone to the table to discuss the options. Communicate willingly. Share each person’s goals for the farm. Patiently listen, share honestly and appreciate others’ perspective and points of view. Compromise is imperative as people have different ideas.

Develop a plan that works for everyone. Work through fair versus equal considerations. Is fair required to ensure transition of the farm to the next generation? Equal may make an impossible financial scenario for next-gen farmers. Equal may mean the farm has to be sold beyond the family to pay debt to siblings.

Make a timeline and stick to it. A timeline provides accountability for all involved. Yes, challenges may arise that require timeline adjustments. But it should be an exception, not the norm.

Include ag professionals experienced in farm transition with farm expertise pertinent to the needs of your business. Allow qualified attorneys to complete the necessary documents to put it all in writing. 

Remember, farm transition is a work in progress. Like any business, it’ll require adjustment as time passes and circumstances change. Without planning, your farm may not stay in farming, much less stay in the family.

Conversation Starters

PA Farm Link provides tools to help get the conversation started. The Planning the Future of Your Farm workbook is available and can be shared with farm family members. It’s a proven tool that has assisted many farmers as they work through the succession planning process.

Another option is to share tools from Succession / Transition | PA Farm Link have farming partners or family members listen to the available podcasts and webinars. They are very informative and available 24/7 when conversation opportunities arise.

PA Farm Link also will connect you with facilitators to facilitate farm family meetings and/or provide referrals to ag professionals for planning purposes.

Have a particular challenging situation? You’d be surprised the obstacles farmers have overcome to ensure the succession of the farm to the next generation. An ag professional can help get the process started and provide direction.

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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