Nov. 26 2012 02:57 PM

While that may be the case, everyone can work on communicating farm succession plans.

Elaine Froese"You understand, farmers never retire," was one of the astute observations that farm family coach Elaine Froese offered to those attending the World Holstein Conference in Toronto, Canada. That comment drew a delayed, but all true chuckle from the crowd as it was translated in multiple languages to the attendees from 40-plus countries. "In order to have a successful ownership transition, family members must understand and respect each other's perspective," noted Froese.

Each generation has different wants and desires. Life goals vary greatly by age.

"To boost the potential for a successful farm transition, each party must understand the needs of business partners," said Froese. Those needs include (by age):
20s: Making it
30s: Success, mastery
40s: Taking charge, ownership
50s: Quality of life
60s: Legacy, starting over, new life roles
70s: Mentoring
80s: Elder blessings on role of business partners

Each generation has his or her own list of concerns. The biggest concern for the young generation on farms, "their opinion is not respected, and their voice is not heard," explained Froese.

For the senior generation, Froese pointed out that the family farm is not the only potential legacy. "Your legacy is not just the farm and land. It is business and communication skills and other valuable skill sets," she said. "Also, it is not your responsibility as a parent, founder and business owner to make all your children economically the same."

Dynamics on the farm are also changing, and everyone needs to better handle the evolving situation. "More daughters are coming back to the farm - with their husbands - only to have husbands bossed around by their father-in-law," Froese pointed out. "When sons-in-laws leave good paying jobs to farm with wives (on their home farm), and those husbands get bossed around, conflict starts."

Communication and respect can overcome many obstacles. "Conflicts cost money," said Froese. "Farms are 21 percent more profitable with regular business meetings," said Froese, citing research from Virginia Tech's David Kohl.

Ultimately, Froese cautioned everyone to keep life in balance. "Workaholics don't have great relationships, especially on the farm. That situation can lead to the big D: Divorce," Froese reminded everyone.

To read more about Elaine Froese's communication and farm transition efforts, go to her website at