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What future farm leaders need to know

What future farm leaders need to know
Skills needed by next generation of farm business managers are different than in the past

Do you know who will be the next leader on your farm? If you said yes, have you thought about what they'll need to be able to do in the future, and what they will need to know?

With how farming has changed over the past decade, what are the skills a future farm leader will need? As more of a farm manager's time is spent managing people and less time spent managing equipment, the leader benefits from focusing more on skills like communication, people management and building relationships with landlords and lenders.

Another major skill set needed by the future farm leader is financial literacy and accounting know-how. As farms grow larger, the numbers get bigger, requiring additional skills.

Skills needed by next generation of farm business managers are different than in the past. A prime example is extra financial and accounting savvy.

The future farm leader will need to be a good manager of the farm's numbers. This may take some intentional training and work, especially if the next generation leader identified in your farm transition plan hasn't been very involved in the financial side of the farm (see my recent post on this).

Take a skill inventory
Think about the next generation on your farm. Have you identified a particular person as your successor leader? You might take a quick inventory of their current experience level and knowledge. How long have they been involved in farming? How long has this potential new farm manager been in your particular operation?

Related: 7 tips for farm legacy planning

What aspects of the operation does this new farm leader have a lot of experience with? Would you consider them to have mastered any particular areas? What aspects of the farm do they not have as much experience with? This might be the time to consider some of the skills I mentioned earlier – financial management, people management, communication, relationship building.

What has the future farm leader been doing that has already exposed them to these aspects of running a farm? What are some opportunities for them to start working more deeply in such areas to gain exposure and experience?

Work on opportunities
Maybe you determine that your successor leader hasn't had much experience with business relationships. You might start taking them along to meetings with your landlords, banker, seed sales rep, your business advisors – anyone you deal with as you run your farm business. Let your successor see meetings with a bit more emotional tension, along with 'typical' meetings.

This will give them a feel for the way you do business, and how you build and maintain business relationships. Direct experience is the best way for them to see how you manage business relationships for the operation. Over time, you might have your successor serve as the main contact in an existing farm business relationship.

Related: Your to-do list before retiring from the farm business

Take an inventory of areas where your successor already has skills and experience, and work to make your successor more involved in the other areas that will be important for them as a future farm leader, and for the future of your operation.

You can read more about preparing the farm’s next leader and about how one family’s operation made the transition to the next generation in our Smart Series publication – bringing business ideas for today’s farm leader.

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