For New Farmers
I plan to take over my family's farm. What are the best ways to accomplish this?
Start talking now!! Taking over the family farm is quite an undertaking. There are steps that most families progress through on their way to a family farm transfer. Good communication is one key to a successful family farm transfer. Schedule some family meetings and start discussing these items as soon as possible. A number of states have "farm link" programs with significant resources for families considering or implementing farm transfers (see below).
Here are some things to think about:
- Decide if the family farm business is right for both you and your family. Talk with your family and discuss what each member is willing to "put up with" over the course of a transfer of the family farm.
- Talk about your family's goals for the future of the farm. Are your goals and the goals of your parents similar? Conflicting goals can tear a farm (and a family) apart. A simple way to get this process started is for each family member to write down what is most important to him or her and then share it with other family members.
- Clarify the family expectations for working together. The senior generation's need for respect for the business that it built over the years must be balanced with the junior generation's need for trust and responsibility to take on new business challenges. Both generations involved in navigating a farm transfer can and should receive support from land-linking programs.
- If you are looking to farm with the senior generation, you will need to discuss the expectations of farm life with them. For example: How much time off do you need? What income do you need to support your lifestyle? You will need to explore and determine the best business arrangement to facilitate the transfer of the farm business.
- Start the farm transfer process with a transfer team. The technical details of a farm transfer typically need the help of an accountant, lender and/or attorney. Retirement and estate planning are usually a part of this process. Specialized farm transfer help can also be obtained through private consultants and some organizations.
Here is a sample of resources:
FARM LINK PROGRAMS: In the northeast, there are organizations and programs dedicated to assisting in the farm transfer process. The National Farm Transition Network lists and links you to all the "farm linking" programs in the US. In the Northeast, farm link programs serve CT, ME, MA, VT, NH, RI, NY, NJ, and PA. They offer a wide variety of programs, individual consultations, referrals, publications and other services for farm transfer, accessing farmland, and related topics.
Pennsylvania FarmLink's Farm Transfer Guide is a resource consisting of facts and worksheets organized around farm transfer topics for both entering and exiting farmers.
NY FarmLink publishes both a Senior Generation Farm Transfer Guide and a Junior Generation Farm Transfer Guide.
Ohio State University Bulletin has Tranferring Your Farm Business to the Next Generation available on line.
The Canadian Farm Business Management Council has a website of land tenure resources for entering and exiting farmers, including a publication called Managing the Multi-Generational Family Farm.
Your Land is Your Legacy, a guide to planning for the future of your farm, is published by American Farmland Trust. It covers farm transfer tax reduction, conservation options, estate planning, agricultural easements, and other land/estate management issues.