A farm is not a simple gift wrapped in shiny paper and handed to a child with a smile. It is a complicated operation, and handing it down to the next generation is a complicated process, especially when more than one sibling is involved. Here are some things to consider before you talk to your children about the future of the farm.
1. Commitment. Assess the level of commitment each child has put into the farm. This should be an assessment of both physical commitment – how much actual labor the child has done, and financial commitment – how much money the child has put into the operation. Compare levels of commitment between children. Commitment can also include the number of years the child has worked on the farm.
2. Ability. Take time to think clearly on the actual ability each child has to make your farm work. This can be difficult to compare as one may have great skill with machinery, another with livestock, and a third with bookkeeping. It is possible that a child’s lack of ability in a crucial area of farm work may sway your decision-making.
3. Vision. As you now know, vision is key to long-term farming. Which child works for the moment, and which has the ability to think years ahead?
4. Education. While formal education is not necessarily needed to run a farm, the agricultural world does keep changing. Do any of your children have educational tools under their belt to keep up with the changes?
5. Management. Some people work best alone, but a farm involves teamwork to run smoothly. How well do your children work with others? Have they had experience being in a management position? If hiring help is part of the job, will your child make good decisions in that area?
The difficulty lies in seeing your own children objectively. Hopefully, these points will allow you to think about the future owners of your farm from different angles. Meaningful conversations might arise after thoughtful consideration.
If you desire further assistance with any part of your succession planning, please contact us. We are here to help!