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Corn+Soybean Digest

Workshop gives owners leg up on handing down farm

Businesses that fail to plan often plan to fail. The axiom holds true whether the business owner reports to work at a high-rise or a crop field, said Alan Miller, a Purdue University Extension farm business management specialist.

An important area many small business owners – including farmers – overlook is a succession plan, Miller said. Farmers who put together a plan ahead of time ensure a smoother transition when they pass the farm on to a child or business partner, he said.

Purdue's Farming Together Workshop will show farm owners how to do just that. The 25th annual workshop takes place Jan. 28-29 in Stewart Center on Purdue's West Lafayette, IN, campus.

Too few farmers and other small business owners plan for the future of their business. In a study conducted for AT&T, nearly 60 percent of small business owners surveyed said they had not developed business plans. Most of the approximately 40 percent who did said mapping out a long-term business plan helped their business remain strong when ownership changed hands.

Family farms are no different, Miller said.

"There's plenty of evidence that in a lot of situations we don't see farm management plans. Farmers just sort of let those things happen on their own," Miller says. "For those individuals who spend time thinking about 'What are we going to do and how are we going to do it?' there's a payoff. Research shows that nearly 70 percent of the individuals who went through that kind of process say that it was key in terms of their success in the new business arrangement."

During the Farming Together Workshop, farm owners will learn about grooming future farm managers, keeping relationships positive during the transition and working through the financial and legal issues in handing off the farm operation.

"In this workshop we try to accomplish several different things," Miller said. "One, we'll try to develop a plan for effective communication in the new business. For example, how are these people going to work together and stay friends? That's an important issue.

"We work on creating a shared vision for the future of the business -- we want to have a business plan. Then we ask, 'Do we have the resources to make this work and everybody be comfortable in the new business arrangement?' 'What kind of steps are we going to go through, in terms of getting from where we're at now to where we want to be?' and 'What are the roles of the different individuals going to be that are involved in the business?'"

Speakers include Miller, Cole Ehmke, Craig Dobbins, Robert Taylor and Gerald Harrison from Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics; and Janet Ayres, a Purdue Extension leadership development specialist.

The workshop runs from 9 a.m. to about 8 p.m. Jan. 28 and from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Jan. 29.

Registration is $80 per family/business through Jan. 10. After that date, registration increases to $110 per family/business. Enrollment is limited to about 60 people.

A workshop registration form and information is available on the workshop Web site, located at

Additional information also is available by contacting Miller at (765) 494-4203 or by e-mail at; or Dobbins at (765) 494-9041 or by e-mail at

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