What Happens to Your Farm If You Die Today?

Is the next generation prepared to assume the leadership and management of the farm?

No, this isn't a life insurance commercial. We're going to talk about preparing the next generation to manage the financial part of the farm. I've learned this week of a family who did not have a plan or training in place, and they are dealing with the fallout of such a decision. Dad had been the farm leader, managing all of the finances. He made all of the business decisions and did not communicate details to anyone in the operation...not his wife or his son or his son's wife or his hired man. The farm was 6,000 acres when he died at age 59 of a massive heart attack.

This happens on farms more often than not. Not the massive heart attack part, but the dad building the operation. Proud of his success he continues to manage every decision while other workers in the operation plant and spray and harvest. They know how to do all of that. But if suddenly they're left to make daily financial decisions on a 6,000 acre farm, the risk is big. The money is big. The transactions are many. The people left behind to make these decisions feel like complete rookies and they're grieving, scared and stressed about their future.

So you have the benefit of their experience right now. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you would do if this same scenario suddenly happened to your dad.  Are you ready? If you are the dad, consider this honestly...is your next generation ready?

What needs to be done is a gradual training. This is a critical part of any succession plan. It could be more important than having the will in place. So start now. Sit down with your decision makers in your next generation. Share your plan and your vision for the future. Spend an hour each week on development of the next generation. Look at the numbers together. When we work with farmers and conduct our annual financial analysis, it's a great time to bring the older and younger generations together so both understand the numbers, working on the plan and goals of the farm as one team.

In our company we have a plan for who leads next if something happens to me. And we're developing those kinds of succession plans throughout the organization for each person who leads a different area of the business. It's important development for the strength of our future. You should do this too.

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