By: Adele Harty, Cow/Calf Field Specialist, SDSU Extension
Generational transition is a topic that many farmers and ranchers know is critical to the future of their operation, but may not know how to start the conversation. This year’s Range Beef Cow Symposium offered presentations that helped address this issue and offer alternatives.
Dave Specht with Advising Generations LLC of Connell, Wash. addressed the issue of communication and how to start the conversation to ensure that everyone is on the same page. He has developed "10 Inspired Questions" to assist ranchers in starting the conversation. Through these 10 questions, Specht would like to see the dialogue begin with all family members so that the family as a whole can begin to see where there are gaps in perceptions and expectations. From there the family can then work to clarify the gaps.
One key point is that open communication will not happen overnight and it takes practice, but the consequence of not starting is much greater due to the potential to lose the family ranch and it could tear a family apart. Below are Specht’s "10 Inspired Questions". His recommendation is to start with your 3 favorites to open communication.
- What does it mean to be a (insert your last name)?
- What is the biggest unknown regarding the future of the family farm?
- What is or would be the hardest think about being a parent and an owner of the ranch?
- What do you perceive as the biggest challenge regarding shared ownership in a family ranch?
- At what age do the decisions in your personal life influence how people look at the ranch?
- What is your comfort level with having to personally guarantee the debt of the family ranch?
- If you owned the ranch, what do you thing would keep you awake at night?
- Complete this sentence: "The best thing about being part of a family ranch is . . . "
- What responsibilities come with owning a ranch?
- What innovations will the family ranch have to make to stay competitive?
The full audio of Dave Specht’s presentation can be heard on the Range Beef Cow Symposium website.