A short trip into familiar territory requires little planning, and rarely are directions needed. A longer journey to a new area, on the other hand, is best tackled with a game plan and a road map.
For most dairies, the path to ownership transfer is often long, winding, and unfamiliar. For this reason, it is wise to create the map that will best lead your farm into the future.
The transfer of ownership is a series of milestones, explained Maria Marshall, a professor in the department of agricultural economics at Purdue University. During a Purdue Commercial AgCast on farm succession, Marshall said that creating a farm transition road map is a great way to figure out what needs to happen, who is responsible for what, and when those milestones will be met.
Ideally, for all succession conversations, Marshall said both parties would be in the room.
“Our whole goal in the succession process, in the end, is to pass along the business, but we want those relationships to be maintained,” Marshall emphasized. “In order to maintain relationships, you have to have transparent communication to make sure goals are aligned and that everyone’s wants, needs, and expectations are on the same page.”
Renee Wiatt, a farm business management specialist at Purdue, reminded listeners that every farm’s road map will be different. “Use the map to lay out a timeline, but be realistic about it,” she said.
And, similar to running into road construction on a road trip, if you get stuck during the farm transition process, find another route.
“A farm road map is a living, working document you can edit as needed,” Wiatt said. “Life changes. Just make sure the farm succession is moving forward.” These changes, however, should be made after a discussion with all parties involved.
The end goal, Wiatt reiterated, is the successful transfer of the farm. To help family’s get started in the planning process, take a look at Purdue University’s “The farm’s legacy: A guidebook for intra-family succession.”