With the increasing development pressure, tight profit margins, and rising average age of farmers in New England, smooth transition of the farming business to the next generation is challenging. Over the past four years, Extension and nonprofit groups in New England have teamed up to offer educational workshops on farm transfer and business succession.
Supported with funds from the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education, 25 day-long workshops were conducted from 2003 through 2006 across the six New England states. Of the 25 workshops, 18 were introductory estate planning workshops referred to as “Transferring the Farm”. The curriculum for these introductory workshops addressed family communications and goal setting, provided an overview of estate planning issues and tools, presented a legal interpretation of transfer issues, offered creative solutions to farm transfer, and provided a forum for discussion of farmer experiences. Traditional lecture presentations were blended with small group discussion, self assessments and farmer testimonial.
The seven second level workshops, “Transferring the Farm II”, were designed to cover selected topics in greater depth. Extensive discussion of business structure was combined with an overview of asset transfer, income requirements, retirement, and health care issues. Case studies helped participants understand the concepts and tie them together.
Workshop effectiveness was measured by post workshop evaluation. Participants were asked to assess their satisfaction with the workshop and their levels of knowledge about farm business succession issues. The evaluation also included open ended, qualitative questions about transfer barriers and intended use of information presented.