Agrarian Trust

Passing on the Farm: The Not So Simple Life

This first hand account of succession shows just what kind of struggles even farmers with a plan may face. From Yes Magazine by Shannon Hayes:

I take a tentative step on the woodland trail I’ve been breaking in all winter. The snow is too soft today. I sink to my knees. Sighing, I call to the dogs. We abandon the woods and sludge instead through the muddy driveway and out to the road for our morning walk. As I step out onto the road, I dodge the thawing dog poops that had been hidden for months by gently falling blankets of white. The snow banks are dirty. The ground slurps as I traverse it.

We call this mud season, and it seems only fitting that my family should choose this time of year to begin working on our farm transition plan. In other words my parents are getting older and it’s time we start planning exactly how they’ll hand the farm off. They bought the land in 1979, and Bob and I joined 20 years later. After being in business for 36 years, mud, slush, dirty snow, and dog bombs seem a fitting landscape as we begin this process.

Mom and I signed up to take a farm transition class together at our local extension office. We thought it would get us off on the right foot. We’ve been spending every Wednesday afternoon down there for the past few weeks. I don’t think we knew what we were in for. This simple life that we are trying to ensure for her and dad, for Bob and me, and for our children, is turning out to be anything but simple. Thoughts of the garden, plans for lambing season, and even the present reality of boiling sap are replaced with flinty explanations of things like living wills, disability planning, cash flow spreadsheets, and financial scorecards.

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