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Successful Successions

July 1, 2010

When the last hog loads on the trailer this summer, the Becker brothers will become full-time crop farmers. Chalk it up as just one more transition for a family that has never shied away from change.

The Laddonia, Mo., family represents Farm Journal’s own legacy of commitment to the topic of passing down the farm. Two decades ago, the Becker family wrote asking for the chance to have their family partnership analyzed by a professional consultant.

Dear Editor:

Our farm is beginning to change from one generation to the next. Dad plans to retire soon; two sons are already farming together; another is interested in coming back and we need to find a fair way to do it. We may need to expand as well.

Another concern is how can we buy the farm when there are seven kids in the family and each owns the same amount of farm shares? There are many questions we need answered, and we also feel we’re missing some important questions.


Tom Becker, Laddonia, Mo.

THAT WAS 1990. Retirements, new partners, marriages, babies and expansion of crop acreage all followed. So did the untimely death of a brother/farming partner to leukemia in 2000.

"I can tie almost every decision and every hurdle we’ve cleared to what was learned through that first transition exercise," Tom Becker says. "It’s not so much that life followed our plan, exactly, but we learned to open up, listen and not be afraid to ask for advice. We are big believers that there are some things worth hiring advisers to get done."

THE PROLOGUE. Darrell Dunteman, the Lewistown, Ill., family business consultant who guided the transition, recalls a family that came to the table on the same page and eager to get the job done. "That really is half the battle," Dunteman says. "Perhaps the Beckers weren’t totally in agreement on what to do, but they wanted it badly enough to be willing to compromise to accomplish the end goal."

Patriarch Anthony Becker came to this Laddonia farm in 1948 as a hired man. He had no idea that two years later he and his brother, Joseph, would become partners with the farm’s owner. By 1960, they owned the place.

When the Becker family sought Farm Journal’s help, Joseph had retired and the farm corporation had agreed to redeem or purchase all the outstanding stock owned by his branch of the family.

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FEATURED IN: Legacy Project - Legacy Project 2010 Report

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