I recently returned from a multi-day farm transition coordinator training in Iowa. Dealing with the transition of a family farm presents all of the challenges of any family business transition with some additional unique challenges. While most businesses, even family businesses, have a separation between home and work, the family home and the family farm are often one in the same. This results in emotional ties to the farm for all family members, even those that don’t participate in the farm operation.
A Farm Transition Coordinator is a person who helps bring about a desired outcome by providing assistance, guidance, and supervision. The coordinator helps the family establish and move through the transition process. They may or may not have technical expertise in law, accounting, financial planning, or the like. But, their purpose is not to serve as the expert in these areas, rather it is to help the family navigate the different challenges and put together the team of experts that may be required.
For a farm transition to be successful, all involved must possess a genuine desire for the farm business to continue for another generation. Additionally, it is important that all parties be open to and value the perspectives of others. Melissa O’Rourke, Extension Farm and Agribusiness Management Specialist with Iowa State University writes: “a succession plan can provide helpful guidance as individuals move into and out of the farm operation in keeping with their own individual life cycle.”
According to O’Rourke, the critical issues to address are:
- Planning for shifts in management from one generation to the next.
- Transitioning asset ownership from generation to generation.
- Anticipating events that could disrupt management and ownership succession.
So the question is, when it comes to your family farm or ranch, do you leave things to chance and hope it all works out without a plan? Do you struggle through on your own to create a plan? Or, do you involve a qualified coordinator to help you and your family create and navigate the process to successful transition?