Are you looking forward to retiring and passing the torch to your children, neighbor, or other passionate farmer? If you plan to be transitioning your farm in the next decade, it’s time to start thinking about that process today. It’s never too early to start planning, so here are five ways to prepare your operation for when the time comes to hand the farm over to the next generation:
1. Teach them about the operation.
I’m not talking about how to farm – they’re likely already involved in that. I’m talking about the actual day-to-day planning and duties. Review long and short term goals for the farm and how you came to those decisions. Take the time to teach them the “why” behind the action. Share your business plan if you have one, or consider making one together.
2. Make introductions.
Bring along the next generation to meet with seed and fertilizer representatives, equipment dealers, crop insurance agents, loan officers, flock supervisors, etc. Help them to establish the relationships that you have with these people by building up their reputation as the next manager of the operation. This shadowing experience will also allow them to see your interactions with these people and how you make sound financial decisions regarding purchases. Eventually, you can start letting the next generation be the point of contact for these reps to reach out to.
3. Meet with your lender.
Introduce the next generation to your loan officer during your annual financial review. Have them help update year-end balance sheets and review taxes. Also, show them the loan accounts, so they understand what payments need to be made and when. Teach them why you might make annual payments in December after crops have come off, or quarterly to sync with your poultry flocks.
4. Establish and build their own credit.
They may already have a mortgage on their home or a few credit cards, therefore it’s important to make sure they continue to make payments on time and not carry over large balances on credit cards. Credit scores are one way for a lender to see how you handle your own credit. You can check yours for free with various sites online. These factors will help prove strong financial management when it comes time to oversee the operation’s accounts.
5. Have an open, honest conversation.
Transitioning the operation to family members or friends can also be stressful and confusing. Be sure to be clear about who will be responsible for what duties so that everyone understands and is on the same page. This meeting could include your accountant, attorney, mediator (if necessary) and the entire family or those involved in the transition – even those who may have “vested interest” in the farm, but no interest in actually farming it.
It’s never too soon to begin conversations about transitioning your farm and what the farm will look like after you retire. This can be an overwhelming task, so don’t hesitate to use your resources – loan officers, accountants, attorneys, or even family friends who have recently transitioned their farms.
If you want to know more about what Farm Credit can do for you and your family’s operation, give us a call at 888.339.3334 or visit mafc.com.
Amber Bullock is a loan officer in our Denton, Maryland office. Amber grew up on her family grain farm in Harrington, DE and raised market lambs. Amber was very involved in FFA and served two years as a state officer after high school, and as the Delaware FFA State President in 2010-2011. She continues to serve the FFA today through the Delaware FFA Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors, where she previously served as President from 2011-2018.
Amber earned her bachelor’s degree in Food and Agribusiness Marketing and Management with a minor in Resource Economics from the University of Delaware in 2012 and is currently pursuing her MBA in Marketing Management at Wilmington University.