When it comes to the future of the family farm operation, family members may face a lot of unanswered questions. It can be tough to live with a lot of uncertainty about the future – especially when you’re passionate about your family farm and want to see it continue strong.
If the questions remain unanswered, they can turn into worries. The older generation might worry: When will we be able to retire? Are we going to have enough income during our retirement? How will our family handle estate taxes?
How will we give an inheritance to both our farming and non-farming children? How will we handle the emotions that may come up during the process – our own emotions and the next generation’s?
Meanwhile, the next generation has worries of their own. The worries can be more intense if conversations about the future haven’t started yet. They might be reluctant to introduce the topic with the older generation, believing it’s not their place to bring it up.
Because of the unknown, they might start worrying: Do Mom and Dad want us to continue the family farm? Are they going to put a plan in place so that can happen? What will the timeline look like? Are we going to have enough money to buy in to the operation – however that will happen? Will our ‘sweat equity’ – our years working on the farm – be considered?
The two generations may have different worries around the farm’s transition, but the overall goal is the same: to be able to honor and continue the family farm that the older generation poured their hearts into.
Starting concrete plans for the farm’s transition can often begin to ease the worries of each generation. When lines of communication about the farm’s future are opened, the planning process is fully kickstarted.
Maybe that starts with the older generation’s decision to begin working on a timeline for how they want to retire. Maybe it’s the younger generation sitting down with the older generation for a heart to heart conversation about their love for the farm, and their concerns about the future of the operation and their potential role in it.
Sometimes, farm families find it helpful to have someone to guide them through these discussions. A guide can help focus the discussions, making progress toward solving the biggest questions the family members have about the future. A legacy advisor plays this ‘guide’ role, as well as helping the family with the transition planning process in many other ways.
What one step do you need to take now to start getting your questions answered about your family farm’s future? You might start by talking with an advisor about your family’s situation. They may be able to help you figure out the next step of your legacy journey.
If you’d like to read the story of one family’s farm transition process and more on protecting the family farm during a transition, read the latest Smart Series publication, or visit us at www.waterstreet.org.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.