Farm transition planning is a key element for multi-generation farms

Farm women can learn about farm transitioning through Annie’s Project II meeting on April 7.

Farms that successfully move from one generation to the next have well thought out transition plans and good communication.

Many things are passed from generation to generation. Some of my most valued possessions are pieces that were passed to me by a great grandparent; the antique buffet, the old rocking chair or the set of nested mixing bowls. The pieces have little value on the open market, but to me they hold a special meaning.

Annie’s Project was also a generational endeavor. Annie’s Project is based on the life of a woman in northern Illinois. Her goal was to marry a farmer and she did. And through the 50 years of farming with her husband, she learned about farm management, kept records to make and support business decision and raised four children. One of her children, Ruth, was a Farm Business Management and Marketing Educator with the University of Illinois Extension and upon her retirement in 2009, she started Annie’s Project. This program was based upon her mother’s experiences as well as Ruth’s observation during her 30 years of extension – farm women want to learn about the business of farming.

Annie’s Project was held in Mid-Michigan in 2010 and 2011 reaching 47 farm women. Participants ranged from less than 1 to over 60 years of farming experience. A common request during both years’ programs was to offer a more in-depth program on farm transition planning.

This is not surprising. Passing something – the farm, from one generation to the next can be a little trickier than passing great grandma’s buffet.

Passing the family farm business to the next generation is an important process which may be approached a little differently by each farm family. However, there are a few common factors that can contribute to a successful transfer.

  • Careful planning – start early.
  • Know your goals and the goals of the next generation – do they match?
  • Communicate – good, open and sometimes formalized communication is key.
  • Transition leadership and responsibility
  • Respect each other’s wisdom and abilities
  • Start before the older generation is 65 years old

To learn more about how to begin a farm transition plan, we invite graduates of Annie’s Project and other farm women to attend Annie’s Project II, April 7, 5:30 dinner, program 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at The Emerald Golf Course, St. Johns, Michigan. Program cost is $25 for the first registrant and $20 for each additional family or extended family member. For more information, contact 989-224-5240 or

Understanding the farm transition planning process is the first step to developing a successful plan. Passing what we cherish from one generation to the next is important. Having a well thought out plan is the beginning.

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