Passing the Pitchfork,
how to best
transition the farm.
Educate the next generation
Unless you are a natural with a pair of green thumbs, every farmer likely struggles in the beginning, and that will be the same with the next generation. So it’s probably the best to educate them as much as possible to prepare them for the difficult profession that is farming. This means getting them familiar with all the equipment and tools they would need to use. It also means giving them advice and tips that come from years of experience.
Turn over decision making
Running a farm involves making countless decisions every day that will affect the productivity of your land. So it is important to bring your next generation into that as soon as possible. At first, you may have to coach them. But gradually, it could be better to hand over power to them. If important management decisions arise, try to make them take action. If problems happen, let them try taking over. The earlier they are used to this, the better prepared they might be. And what’s more, you don’t know when an accident or an illness is going to happen. So if you become sick or hurt, you can be assured that there are those who can take over right away and keep the farm going.
Make it easy for them to take over
You’ve probably run the farm in a way that is familiar to you. But that may not be the best for your children. Imagine them trying to sort through years of complex excel sheets that only you know intimately.
So try to make it more manageable. Maybe transfer all your documents to a web-based management system that is easier to understand. Also, make sure to set up a good farm estate plan. It is said that 70% of farm families do not have an estate plan or a succession plan. This can result in a very complicated situation for the next generation to take over, such as families internally fighting over how much belongs to whom, and who gets to make the important decisions regarding the farm. So financially, and for the good of the family in general, try to discuss with a financial professional about succession as early as possible.
Be open to their ideas
No matter what happens, the future of farming is probably going to look a lot more different than it is now. So it is important for farmers to open up to the new ideas that the next generation will inevitably bring to the table.
Ever thought about drones flying around your field and monitoring the condition of your crops? That just may be the future. Or how about wearable sensors for your cows? You may have had to check your cows one by one at a time, but with technology, you may not have to. These things may sound strange and foreign to you, but to your children who are likely to be more familiar with technology, that could turn out to be the norm. So stay open minded.
If we may pick an analogy here, it could feel like teaching them how to ride a bike. At first, you hold onto their seat and pray that they don’t fall. But then you realize that they’re flying off, riding into their own path. So that’s what you have to do to prepare the next generation. Be there for them. Be their advisor, and mentor. Sooner or later they’ll be standing over their own harvests.