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succession plan

Many next-generation farmers that I coach are sick of complaining. They want this year to be the year they FINALLY gain some equity.

Farmers love carrots, don’t you know? They dangle the proverbial carrot for years in front of the next generation, to keep the young folks guessing about when they’ll become part-owners and have their farm succession dreams turn into reality.

“The proverbial carrot that Dad is holding out is really getting me down,” says the young dairy farmer. “He can’t see our ten years here as commitment. We don’t have the pride of ownership, so my spouse refuses to do any work in the house yard.”

Yes, farmers love carrots. But they hate to think about letting go of their managerial roles and ownership of the farm. They wear the badge of honor, “I’m a farmer; I’ll never retire” with pride.

Have you thought about farm succession planning?

I once saw a newspaper caption that read, “Never too old to work,” over the 80-year-old sheep farmer in the picture. All I could think of was whether he had any successors who are frustrated by dad’s inability to transfer farm ownership?

My colleague, Bob Tosh of MNP in Saskatoon, is convinced that we advisors need to “educate farmers on how to retire and let go of the farm.” 

This is something I’m happy to help with. Learn more about my farm succession planning services here.

Bob’s insight was also echoed by Don McCannell, another CAFA colleague, who says, “Dad’s dream is not necessarily the same dream as the next generation.”

Curious about exactly what it is millennial farmers might want? Find out here.

So you’re stuck. You’re frozen by your inability to move forward with farm succession planning, and it’s left you and your potential successors frustrated.

Pulling mucky carrots out of a water-logged garden is hard work. It works much better when conditions are drier. What conditions will get rid of your “someday the farm will be yours” way of thinking?

[Tweet “#Farmers: Here are 8 Ways to take action toward #succession planning vs. just talking about it!”]

8 Ways to Let Go of the Proverbial Carrot and Start Your Farm Succession Planning:

1. Talk to yourself.

Reflect on what a great day on the farm really looks like to you. 

Remember what it felt like when you were taking over for your parents? Did you forget what it felt like to have a title to land and to be able to negotiate the finances?

Are you having an identity crisis that is holding you back from moving on to your next role on the farm? 

Remember that you are a human being, not a human doing. 

What you do for a living does not define your character or who you are as a person. I suspect many farmers have a hard time letting go of their title of “boss” because they don’t know who they would be if they left the farm in charge of the next generation. 

Don’t just make your yearly goals into resolutions, act and accomplish those goals!

2. Listen to your body’s aches and pains.

You think you’re contributing lots of labor, but the younger laborer at your farm sees things differently—your perception is not their reality. They need to have some equity to leverage their dreams into reality, but you’re stubborn about letting go and don’t want to change the farm business.  

If you have no farm successor, then start looking for a joint venture partner. Or, take a sabbatical to “test out” a different lifestyle that’s less taxing on your body. 

After all, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your health is your wealth.”

3. Decide how much longer you want to be happily married.

Your spouse is waiting for some fun and adventure beyond the farm—before you turn 80. She is tired of being “the pig in the middle” of handling the successor’s impatience and your pride of power and control. She also understands that you’re a workaholic. In a loving way, she’s trying to tell you that she needs more family time and fun.

Marriage fitness is essential for farm couples. Here’s how to build a strong relationship. 

The next generation is also looking for family life because they will not work in the same way.  They have new ideas on how to work smart, but your carrot dangling is becoming annoying. They may soon just up and leave in frustration.

4. Different is just different, it’s not necessarily wrong.

Different dreams from the succeeding generation are being stifled by the carrot dangling in front of them. 

They’ve invested 12 years of key energy and labor. They’ve left awesome careers to come back to your business. They’re more than ready to be given some shares or forms of ownership. You don’t need to have this be “all or nothing.” 

It can be done or transitioned in stages, but start on it now!

5. “Do it now!”

This is the mantra of successful, wealthy business minds. 

Call your team of advisors: the accountant, the lawyer, the financial planner, the agrologist, and the communications coach to get the farm succession planning process moving with hard facts. 

I was thrilled one summer when some farm folks updated their will that was 17 years old, bought plots, and planned their funeral. They just needed a gentle push to update their estate plans.

6. Contact your local ag office to find out more about government farm succession programs.

There are programs out there to help you “get rid of your carrots.” 

These programs will help cover some of the cost of getting your farm succession plans discussed and put on paper in order to execute them. Younger farmers in some provinces also get a premium of help if they’re under 40, so ASK!

7. Crunch your numbers.

Many farm folks are scared that they can’t live well off the farm. 

They know there are farm perks financially, but they have also neglected to build up non-farm sources of income. They’re counting on the farm to provide resources to live for the next 20 years. 

I can refer you to service financial planners who, for a reasonable fee, will help you understand your family’s cost of living needs and income streams. You can also get a rough idea by looking at the last 12 months of bank/credit union statements. 

Fear of future money issues is a key reason why folks don’t retire according to Andrew Allentuck, author of “When Can I Retire?”

8. Stop treating all your kids the same way.

The eldest child has put in years of sweat equity to help you create, capture, and grow your wealth, yet they are supposed to wait indefinitely so that you can see what the other siblings sign up for.

Farm succession planning is a process. It has ongoing changes to be made based on needs, expectations, tax planning, and the willingness to test out new scenarios. 

Don’t hold the oldest successor hostage to his or her siblings. 

You have a business that needs to be viable, efficient, and profitable. It also needs to respond to the passion and energy of those invested in it. Your successors have invested time and labor. 

Your farm is not a pie you can cut into four equal pieces for each child. Get over it!

Once you’ve looked at your own financial needs and emotional well-being, then you can start the discussion around, “what does fairness look like to you?” 

Remember, it’s not your responsibility as parents to make all of your children economically equal. Deal with the farming successor fairly. 

Here’s more on how to keep farm transitions fair. 

May every carrot you eat remind you that there’s work to be done. Start talking, and get in touch with me about your new scenario that you are building to get rid of the “proverbial carrots” that are rotting on your farm. I can help. 

It’s your farm, your family, and your choice.

If you enjoyed this article and you’d like to dive deeper, don’t miss these posts:

The Farm Workaholic: 7 Reality Checks and A Subscription to Making Change
The Farmland Dilemma: Help! The Siblings Who Don’t Farm are Getting Farmland!
Evolving Farm Family Roles

This article was originally published on June 7, 2016, and has been updated.

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.

$15

Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“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.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
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.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“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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