We hear it all the time. “It was my grandmother’s farm.” “The farm’s been in the family 125 years.” “I grew up wanting to farm with my dad.”

Chances are, if you grew up on a farm, it has meaning for you and you’d hate to see it broken apart and sold piece by piece. And yet, this is exactly the fate of many of today’s family farms.

How can you take steps to prevent this from happening to you? With a business continuation strategy.

Business continuation planning doesn’t happen by accident. It takes careful planning and input from every member of the family – even those who aren’t going to stay on the farm. A solid business continuation plan requires the farm’s current and future generations to discuss everything from the business plan to their retirement plans and their estate plans. And it takes a team of professionals, too – an insurance agent, an attorney, and an accountant to name a few.

Sometimes, starting the conversation is the hardest part. Understanding generational, situational and personal differences among everyone in the family is critical. As you prepare to bring up the idea, consider your timing. Avoid family gatherings like birthdays or holidays where your conversation could take people by surprise. Instead, think about setting up a family “shareholder’s meeting” where everyone can come to the table prepared to talk about business continuation.

As the family comes together to begin the business continuation discussion, your local Farm Bureau agent can be an excellent resource for leading the conversation. As a neutral third party, your agent can take a sensitive approach to asking questions about retirement, estate preservation, and ultimately the sale of the business, without personal bias.

Above all, don't get frustrated ​if an initial conversation doesn’t resolve ​everything. Oftentimes, a complete business continuation plan can take six months to a year to finish.

It’s often said that more than two-thirds of family businesses don’t survive the jump from the first generation to the second, and only ten percent make it to the third generation. Make a plan to begin the conversation today. Your local Farm Bureau agent can help.