The International Farm Transfers Study wanted to look at the process of the transfer of skills and knowledge to the next generation. When I work with younger farmers, they are keenly aware that some decisions Dad is not letting go of very easily. So I offer this worksheet from Dr. John Baker’s work at the University of Iowa Beginning Farmers Club: Distributions of Managerial Tasks on the Farm: Founder and Successor evaluation.

Identify on a scale of 1 to 5 who has the ultimate decision. A response of 1 means that the operator (founder) had retained power over that task or skill, and five means the successor had complete control over that aspect of the farming operation.  Use this worksheet on your farm to get a picture of the way decisions are made in your business. The list of tasks also serves as a great learning plan to identify the tasks that you might want to teach or mentor the next generation. Daughters in law who are not used to farm life might also find this list helpful in understanding the complex decision making that needs to be done by the farm team. Perhaps there are some skills she brings to the farm team that are being overlooked.

Operator alone Shared between operator and successor Successor alone
1 2 3 4 5
Plan day to day work
Make annual crop/livestock plans
Decide the mix and type of enterprise in the long run
Decide the level of inputs to use
Decide the timing of operations
Decide when to sell crop/livestock
Negotiate sales of crops/livestock
Decide when to pay bills
Decide type and make of machinery and equipment
Negotiate purchase of machinery and equipment
Decide when to hire more help
Recruit and select employees
Decide amount and quality of work
Supervise employees
Decide work method/way jobs are done
Decide and plan capital projects
Identify sources and negotiate loans and financing
Livestock management
Keeping farm records

Next month I’ll be doing a webinar on behalf of the Farm Leadership Council’s Advanced Producer network (see to talk about farm decision making.

Making decisions can be a simple process when you understand the basic structure of decision-making.

  1. Identify the problem or issue that needs to be solved.
  2. Gather all the possible options and resources for a solution.
  3. Choose a course of action and resource to solve the problem.
  4. Act …focus and execute that option to resolve the issue.
  5. Evaluate…was this a good choice, or what would we do differently next time?

Okay, I know that those 5 steps are overly simplistic, but that’s what’s wired in my brain that works for me from my Management 101 courses at university. It is also basically the process we use in mediation.

Folks on the farm have time to ponder during the winter months to solve the issue and problems of managing their profitable businesses.

I encourage you to print off the spreadsheet in this article and have everyone evaluate what decisions they are in charge of, and which decision making areas they would like to gain more expertise with.

It’s a very sad day when I discover in a coaching scenario that a young farm team member has been involved as labour for over a decade, and yet never has seen the financial statements of the operation.

You don’t jump from being the hired man to “partner” with no clue about the balance sheet.

Time races on. It is time to focus on the business, not just be busy “in the business”.

If your relationship to your spouse is strained due to the stress of the overwhelm of decisions that you know need to be addressed, perhaps this list will help you focus your talks with your spouse, so that you de-stress the tension and attack the issues together.

Beware that avoiding making decisions is really a decision. “Not making decisions is in fact a decision of denial.”

In Baker’s study, the areas most likely controlled by the successor included:

livestock management, recruiting and selecting employees, and keeping farm records. The tasks most shared evenly were: deciding work method, decide timing of operations, and making annual plans.  The greatest control of the operator or founder was in the areas of identifying sources and negotiating loans, and determining when to pay bills. This is a cash flow money issue. Fights about Dad being too tight with the cash or not paying enough wages are based on who is the ultimate decision maker in this area. It gets really interesting when grandpa is still calling the shots, the successor is 50 something, and the next generation grandson is also wanting to learn how to make decisions to gain management skill.

Call me at 1-866-848-8311 or email to share your decision making tips that work well in your operation.

Remember, it’s your farm, your family, your choice. Work on making great choices.

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


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“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
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Audience Member,
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Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
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“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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