A generation ago, passing on the family farm was a simpler process. Profit margins were higher, land values were lower, farm sizes were smaller, and tax rates were not as significant. More often than not, a farmer could draft a simple will to transfer ownership to his children. Today, the transition generally takes place over a number of years, thus today’s successful farm succession demands better planning and communication.
A University of Wisconsin-Extension program was created to address these issues for farm succession in today’s high stakes climate. The program is designed to provide tools and information to help the succeeding generation establish a firm financial footing and learn to manage the business as well as address issues of the retiring generation, who must to be willing to turn over control of the business and trust that the successor will do well. Farm families gain the skills necessary to develop a working plan to make the actual transition smoother and improve their ability to communicate the transfer details with family members.
The program was held in three Wisconsin locations for over 200 participants, 85% of which plan to develop a farm business arrangement or will as a result of attending the program. In addition, six follow-up workshops were held at the county level, which further addressed farm business arrangements in more detail. Also, county agents/educators from throughout western Wisconsin are continuing to follow up with individual consultations many of these participants.