Business of Agriculture: Off-Farm Experience Can Improve Generational Transfer
Rick Hermonot and Jon Jaffe are consultants with Farm Credit East, working out of the Dayville office. Rick has been with Farm Credit for 27 years, and Jon has been with the organization for 31 years.
Farming and ranching take commitment, and when it comes to passing on an operation they’ve spent their lifetimes building, most producers want to make sure it’s going to someone who is qualified and who’s as committed as they have been. Ideally, many hope this is their children. One way to make sure that they’re the right people to take over your family operation is to require that they go off-farm for education or work experience.
When your goal is to transfer the farm to your children, it may seem counterproductive to send them away from it. Keep in mind that ultimately you want both your children and your operation to thrive, and off-farm experience can help a generational transfer in several ways.
First, you want to know that the next generation truly is interested in, and committed to, taking over your operation. If they remain on the farm, there is always the question of whether they’re staying out of obligation or because they don’t believe they have any choice. By encouraging them to try other options, when they come back to the farm you’ll know they mean it.
Secondly, when they come back they’ll be brimming with ideas and armed with experience, which can only benefit you and the future of your agricultural legacy. Whether these insights come from university classes, experience on another farming operation, or work in another field entirely, your next generation will come home knowing more about working with different people, managing and resolving conflict, communicating effectively or implementing industry-leading, cost saving processes.
Some agricultural families like Talbot Farms embrace the benefits of off-farm experience to the point that they require it of any family member considering joining the operation. The Kunde family, owners of Kunde Family Estate and Kunde Family Estate Vineyards, also requires the next generation to go out in the world before joining the family company.
As you’re building your succession plan, consider including provisions for education or off-farm work experience so you and your children can gain the same benefits. Then, when the time comes, you’ll know that your children are committed, and you’ll benefit from all that they’ve learned.