Evolution: a process of change in a certain direction. 

Revolution: a sudden, radical, or complete change.

Deciding to own a farm and deciding to retire from owning a farm are once-in-a-lifetime events. Sometimes they happen by sudden, radical and complete changes. More often, family farms work through a process of change. 

How do relatives build trusting relationships to run the farm day-to-day? Banking family farms and businesses, I can share a short list of cornerstones that may guide your family’s evolution.

  1. Write down your personal goals. Here are a few ideas to consider
    • What can’t you imagine life without?
    • What brings you joy?
    • What do you want most for your family and your farm partners?
  2. Next, be practical ... what are your farm duties? Write them down as well:
    • What do you do daily / weekly / monthly / annually?  Why bother writing this all down? It provides visibility and validation for what you do, time away coverage, disaster planning, etc. Own the process!
  3. Finally, let’s look at compensation. Jot down your thoughts:
    • Farming is more than the check. What are the non-monetary rewards? 
    • If you weren’t farming anymore, what would you need to replace? What is the impact?
      • Housing? Vehicle? Tools? Cell phone? insurances? Child care?

Reflect on what you’ve written down and share your answers with all involved. Succession of ownership and management happens best when all parties listen with the goal of understanding personal perspectives and goals. Why? Building trust at this level is a process. Here are a few more tips as you and your relatives continue the conversation:

  • Do: take meeting notes and reflect on them later. 
  • Do: say “I didn’t know that”. Ask, “Would you give me an example?”
  • Do: schedule time – daily, weekly, monthly - to focus on your farm business matters. Talk about how much to share, and not share, from these meetings.

When it is action time, say what you will do, then do it!

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear more or talk through farm succession with your family and your partners. Drop me a note at econdon@icbk.com

Written by Elsa Condon

VP - Ag Banking Officer, Investors Community Bank

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