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Son invited to join neighbor’s farm operation

Tom J Bechman Hagie machinery in corn field
GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY? The panelists suggest that if everyone plans carefully, the chance for your son to enter farming through your neighbor’s operation could be a win-win.
Profit Planners: You may have dreamed of him farming with you, but perhaps the timing isn’t right.

Our youngest son works for a neighbor who farms 2,000 acres. We farm 5,000 acres, and our son-in-law is a partner. The neighbor doesn’t have any sons and wants our son to buy into his operation. We always hoped our son would join us. This may not be the right time. Should we encourage him or ask him to wait for us? Or is the neighbor’s offer an opportunity?

The Profit Panel members include David Erickson, farmer, Altona, Ill.; Mark Evans, Purdue University Extension educator, Putnam County, Ind.; Jim Luzar, former Extension educator and landowner, Greencastle, Ind., and Steve Myers, farm manger, Busey Ag Resources, Le Roy, Ill.

Erickson: I encourage you to look at this as an opportunity for your son that may provide even more possibilities in the future for collaboration. Finding the right time and resources to bring the next generation into the family farm business is difficult if not almost impossible. This opportunity allows your son to grow into his own business with the help of outside resources. It’s the chance many beginning farmers would be grateful to have.   

Evans: Encourage your son to buy into the partnership if he is so inclined. Perhaps there will be areas where you can trade and provide backup support. This seems ripe for a win-win situation. If the terms for your son are favorable with your neighbor, your son is still close by and assuming you are on good terms with the son-in-law, you have considerable potential to perhaps spread equipment cost/risks in the future. Be careful about how much you help financially. This is your son’s deal. He needs to carry it out and you don’t want to place high risk on your current operation.

Luzar: Your son must evaluate his two options to see how closely each aligns with his long-term goals. Both you and your neighbor must provide information for your son to develop a decision matrix. For your operation, this involves engagement with your son-in-law and your spouse as to how your son’s entry would impact the operation moving forward. Solid succession planning must take place to present a clear plan to your son. Planning will help determine if financial conditions are suitable.

The worst-case scenario for your son is to attempt to evaluate two abstract opportunities and select one with incomplete information that leads to resentment regarding his decision. Does your son-in-law want to farm with your son? What does management look like when your son joins? Answering hard questions now will make options clearer for your son and provide you with the ability to make a solid offer to join the farm. You cannot afford to just hope things work out!

Myers: The first question is what does your son want to do? Always encourage him and help as you can, but the “right time” for you and him may never intersect. Opportunity is knocking for him. Ask if he is better served to go with the neighbor’s offer at this time. His decision and the candid conversation of how you see his return to your operation needs to occur now. It appears that there is not an offer from you to return now.

TAGS: Management
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