We hear it all the time. It was my grandmother’s farm. The farm’s been in the family 125 years. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to farm with my dad.
Chances are, if you grew up on a farm, it holds special meaning for you, and you’d hate to see it sold off piece by piece. And yet, this is exactly the fate of many of today’s family farms.
How can you prevent this from happening to you? The key is to adopt a strong business continuity plan (or succession plan). A foolproof farm succession plan needs input from every member of the family, even those who aren’t going to stay on the farm. It requires current and future generations to discuss everything from the business to retirement and estate plans.
So how do you talk to your family about farm succession? It’s not always an easy conversation to have, which is why we’ve compiled these tips for how to broach this sensitive subject.
Understand Each Individual’s Point of View
As you broach your farm continuity plan, take into account the generational, situational and personal differences of everyone in the family. The topic of mortality is inherent to a farm succession conversation, and this can be difficult to discuss. Consider everyone’s point of view and emotional stake in the investment.
Set Aside a Specific Time to Talk About Succession Planning
Be mindful about when is the best time to have the conversation. Avoid family gatherings like birthdays or holidays where your discussion could take people by surprise. Instead, think about setting up a family “shareholder’s meeting” where everyone can come prepared to talk about business continuation.
Rely on a Third Party to Lead the Discussion
As the family gathers to begin the business continuation discussion, your local Farm Bureau agent can be an excellent resource to add to your continuity planning team. As a neutral third party, your agent can take a sensitive approach to asking questions about retirement and estate preservation, without personal bias.
Be Patient with the Process
Above all, don't get frustrated if an initial conversation with the family doesn’t resolve everything. Oftentimes, a complete farm succession plan can take six months to a year to finish.
More than two-thirds of family businesses don’t survive the jump from the first generation to the second, and only 10 percent make it to the third generation. Begin the conversation today. Your local Farm Bureau agent can help.