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What’s the leadership pathway for farm’s next generation?What’s the leadership pathway for farm’s next generation?

Prepare farm’s future leaders through intentional training.

Darren Frye

March 28, 2016

3 Min Read

As the older generation on the farm thinks about the legacy they want to leave, they should feel pride in what they’ve built – the operation they’ve labored over and given their blood, sweat and tears to.

But there’s another side to the emotions that the older generation may feel when they think about their legacy and the future of the farm. Those feelings may look much more like worry and anxiety.

The older generation may think: The farm is so much bigger than when I started taking over from my dad. It’s more complex – there are so many moving pieces and aspects for the leader to handle. I’m worried about the next generation – I don’t know if they’re prepared with the knowledge they need, or the ability to make the types of decisions they’re going to have to make if this farm will be able to continue.

What it takes

Leaders on many farms – from both generations – have these same feelings. The younger generation may wonder and question whether they have what it takes to lead the farm, especially with the bigger decisions they know they will be making. Throw in the current economic climate in ag, and it adds up to a firestorm of doubt.

Many farm families have these worries, but the bigger question is: what are they deciding to do about it?

Equipping leaders

On one farm, the members of the older generation had started working on their estate plan. At the same time, they were feeling very concerned about how the farm’s future leaders – two brothers in their mid-30s – would get up to speed on all of the skills they needed to lead the operation.

The older generation didn’t want to be in charge of all the decisions forever. They wanted to gradually turn decision-making over to the next generation. But they also felt that they first needed to equip the next generation to be able to make smart business decisions.

The farm family, with the help of a legacy advisor, set up a ten-year training structure. The training plan would help the next generation develop a much deeper understanding of the business side of farming and the types of business decisions that were currently being made by the older generation. The intention of the older generation was to fully retire after those ten years, and let the younger generation take over decision-making entirely.

Both generations were excited about the plan. Both felt that some of their worry and anxiety about the farm’s future were lifted – just by having an intentional plan in place to follow.

Does your farm have a plan in place to prepare the next generation for the types of leadership skills and abilities they will need? How confident are you that the plan will truly prepare the farm’s next leaders for what they will face? Consider talking with a legacy advisor who can help by first understanding your farm’s unique needs, and then help you put a plan together based around those needs.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

About the Author(s)

Darren Frye

CEO, Water Street Solutions

Darren Frye grew up on an innovative, integrated Illinois farm. He began trading commodities in 1982 and started his first business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. In 1994 he started a consulting business, Water Street Solutions to help Midwest farmers become more successful through financial analysis, crop insurance, marketing consulting and legacy planning. The mission of Finance First is to get you to look at spreadsheets and see opportunity, to see your business for what it can be, and to help you build your agricultural legacy.

Visit Water Street Solutions

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