An amazing group of Alberta farmers shared their deepest fears about farm transition with me at the 2018 Agriculture Service Board Conference. They texted me their biggest issues regarding fairness in transition planning.
The Biggest Issues Regarding Fairness in Transition Planning
I thought you might like to see what resonates with you in this list of texts (no particular order).
- What I have had to come to grips with in our farm situation is that we have no next generation farmers in a succession plan, while I have an emotional attachment to my land, my children and my brother’s children do not.
- Listening to each other fairly is an issue. How do we deal with non-farming family members?
- Narcissists – There is too much negativity.
- We have big talkers…people who over promise and under deliver. They are not being forthright.
- Over taxation. Government policies. King Justin’s cut. Tax.
“All are created equal. Just some are a little more equal than others. “ -Orwell.
- My fairness issue is a small family farm with 4 daughters of whom only 1 wants to come back but I fear there might be a split up in that daughter’s family. (divorce threat)
- The older generation will not let go. They are having control issues and they expect me to farm the same way they did.
- Who gets the homestead?
- How to be fair with 3 boys. Also, bringing kids into the farm.
- Siblings – Having greedy siblings when fairness should prevail, especially a greedy sister-in-law. There is always someone who feels they have been done out of something. Almost everything is going to one sibling, which is making it hard to deal with siblings that have never been on the farm.
- Splitting up the farm – We need to find a balance between siblings. With having 10 brothers and sisters, the sisters are getting half the land and the parents don’t want to talk about the transition. Our parents won’t let me buy out our sisters. I pray my wife will inherit lots of cash so I can buy out sister. When I ask Dad about vision legacy he says “build your own.”
- Money. Money. Money. Should you be gifting the farm or selling it to them?
- Second marriage families.
- Substantial increases in land values.
“We have heirs to the loan, no heirs to the throne.”
- With only having one of four children on the farm, how soon should we have the succession talk? At what age for the kids and the parents is acceptable? Should you be looking at your farm more as a business and allow the children with the most capable skills run and take over the spread?
- Clarity in choice, finding balance, then doing it.
- What do you do when it’s dangerous to have all family members sitting in the same room? Our issue is trying to have a conversation without someone getting angry.
- Changing the guard – How do you get the founder to not have the “work all day” attitude, and how do you actually give the founder a deadline and convince them to step away from the farm activity?
- Someone sent a colourful quote:
“I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind, its what you leave behind when you go.”
- We need mechanisms that will allow for a reasonable financial entry point for specifically young/new farming family members.
- Equality doesn’t always appear equal. So, if we step back would step one not be to make sure the initial business plans for those currently owning or purchasing the business be to put our vision statements and goals on paper? Wouldn’t we make the future transition be easier if we started off on the same page with a similar vision? (Get the Farm Family Toolkit, here, at the bottom of the page!)
- Transfer of decision making – I struggle with taking over the management decisions from my father who wants to work in the business every day but never work ON the business. Working on the business is almost looked down on as avoiding “real work”. I think his generation was built on the basis of the harder and longer you worked the more money you made. Plus he was subsidized by my mother’s nursing wage. It is a struggle to turn the farm into a stand-alone profitable business and support a different generation with increased lifestyle costs.
- Fair isn’t always equal and equal isn’t always fair. Our daughter-in-law is a non- farmer. She has no interest in the family farm. (I am seeing this as a trend in agriculture now.)
- Why should a son or daughter feel like they’re entitled to anything?
- If I push too hard on tough subjects they may push me out.
What Do Farmers Expect From Their Parents or Children?
Opportunity, love, support?
The key to a successful farm transition plan is good communication. Parents need to be open to what their children want and expect of the farm and/or its assets. Children need to be understanding of parents who are afraid to let go of the farm or are trying to include everyone in the transition, even non-farming children.
What is Success to You?
Success to me is working alongside my hubby, raising our babies on our farm while maintaining a healthy relationship with my parents, who own our farm, and the rest of the family who is on and off the farm.
Success is ensuring everyone in our family has enough work to fill their time and enough time to do their work.
My definition of fairness is helping everyone be successful. If you would like a transcript of my notes, text FAIRNESS (use ALL CAPS) in the message line to 1-587-800-4323 and you will get my thoughts on “FAIR”: Financial transparency, Attitudes towards money, Intent, and Roles.
My farm audiences are rich with ideas that are keeping them stuck, but when they start to drill down on what is the stumbling block to getting transition plans activated, it usually distills down to a fairness issue.
“Elaine, what’s been helpful in this discussion is to see and understand that others (families) are having similar issues as our family. We are not on the journey alone. Each business is as unique as a fingerprint and no two are the same. You can creatively structure yourself for future transitions. Communication is the key to the success of any business model.” says the Ontario farmer in my seminar.
Take a highlighter to this article and make your own personal list of fairness issues that your farm team needs to talk about. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t let the fear of conflict stop your discussion. You can do this. Remember, “Love does not read minds”, you need to share what is in your head and heart.