Keys to Successful Farming Together and Farm Transfers
Keys to Successful Farming Together and Farm Transfers

Dr. Allen Young
USU Extension Dairy Specialist

    I have concerns. My students call them pet peeves. If I took a poll I think I would find that they feel I have too many �concerns.� It is sometimes hard to convince them that my heart is in the right place and that my motives are only for their ultimate welfare. This article fits into that scenario. I hope no one takes offense, but it is such a �concern� of mine that I felt that I needed to start somewhere.

    Multi-generations working on the farm with the intent to pass on the family farm to the next generation is as American as apple pie. However, in many cases, the apple pie may have some worms in it. I have seen major conflicts between families working on the farm together and then trying to deal with the transfer to the next generation. I have been told by an 85-year old farmer about someday passing his farm on to his �boys� (ages 55 and 58). These same �boys� told me later that they still had NEVER seen the checkbook, had to get permission to buy something, and did not have any idea about the finances of the dairy that they will someday inherit (if they live long enough). Another situation that I know about is the son who worked on the farm all of his life with the idea he would get it after the father died, and then, because no one dealt with the transfer issue, when the father died the son had to sell the farm to pay off his siblings and the mother. I know everyone of you can recall a similar story from your own experiences.

    I understand the concerns of the older generation. That farm is the only life most of them have ever known. They love it and hate to think about the chances of the farm not surviving if one of the �boys� takes over. The �boys� are sitting there thinking the same thing, but their concerns are that they have not learned how to manage the farm because they are not allowed to make decisions of any consequence. The conflict simmers unresolved until, at some inopportune moment, it becomes such a big issue that the relationships cannot be salvaged and both parties lose. It is so prevalent that I think it is time to bring it into the open and talk about what to do. So, where do you begin? Below is a checklist (not in any particular order) of key points for you to consider. This list is from material developed by Cornell University.

Keys to Successful Farming Together and Farm Transfers (my comments are in parentheses)

    The key to this whole issue is to start now!! Begin by really communicating with one another. Avoid being defensive and argumentative. Spend lots of time LISTENING to the other person. I have several workshop materials and presentations to help get started. If you want a neutral third party to listen, give me a call. After you have gotten past the hardest part, communicating, then you will probably need help from an accountant and a lawyer.

    I want you to be successful. If I have helped you begin to think about and act on the issues involved with working on the farm and successfully transferring it, then I can take one more concern off of my list. ©