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November 2013 Archive for Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

Farming Isn't a Gender-Based Occupation

Nov 25, 2013

Teen girls with calf   USDA NRCSFrom Legacy Moment (11.22.2013).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

"They acknowledge they have much to learn about crop production," Ching Lee writes in the article, "Sisters Return to Farm to Learn About Production," published in California Farm Bureau's Ag Alert. But that headline is an understatement that belies the real intent of these sisters—to one day take over the farm and continue the family legacy. It's the kind of story I hope becomes more common as planning for succession grows to be the norm rather than the exception.  

After graduating from college, both sisters went to work in ag-related occupations. They said it was this work experience outside the family farm that got them thinking about returning to continue the legacy. This oft-overlooked link is an important component of a comprehensive succession plan. It is best for children raised on the farm to gain experience off the farm working outside the family business.

The article also notes: "For her [Becky's] senior project at Cal Poly, she prepared a succession plan for her family, which involved meetings with her grandparents, father and uncle to talk about the future of the operation." If you're struggling with who should start the conversation, follow these sisters' lead: If you're interested in continuing the operation, it's your responsibility to initiate the succession planning process.

In discussing the continuing transition, one of the sisters is confident. "I know right now this is where I'm supposed to be," she says. "Without a doubt."

In reading this article, be mindful:

  • Don't assume your children aren't interested. Ask them all if they might want a career in farming.
  • Don't overlook or underestimate your daughter's interests or capabilities. Farming is a career founded in desire.
  • Don't dismiss or otherwise ignore your kids' inquires about what might happen to the farm and when.
  • Don't procrastinate. Planning is important. The farm will transition, but the question remains, how?
  • Don't let the little things become the big things and destroy everything!

As you anticipate the holiday season, now is the time to plan for the next generation of family farmers. Questions about succession? Contact me at Ask Kevin.

News & Resources for You:  

Your success depends on the quality and quantity of communication within the family. Get the conversation started!

When the family gathers at Thanksgiving, remember to make plans for the Legacy Project Workshops coming up in December.

Browse a full library of succession planning resources including articles, webinars and interactive tools at eLegacyConnect.com.  

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 Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS


Is Your Legacy Values or Possessions?

Nov 20, 2013

iStock Cattle MountainsFrom Legacy Moment (11.15.2013).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

If you don't know Dave Pratt of Ranching for Profit, you should. Although we've never met personally, I admire his writing and envy the clarity of his message. Succession is not his focus, but the topic merits his attention from time to time. Since his business is focused on helping cattle producers run profitable operations, the issues around succession are often a cause for concern.  

In a recently published blog, Two Legacies, Dave explains his interpretation of legacy. He opens with, "Legacy is a powerful concept. Perhaps that is because we see our legacy as a form of immortality." He goes on to explain that many of the ranchers he works with attach powerful meaning to the word and use it as a source of motivation, in a manner of speaking, to hold the farm together for a next generation.

Then he writes, "Unfortunately, the power of a legacy is often more destructive than constructive." From there he explains that there are really two legacies. One is the values we learn from our pioneering roots, those characteristics of a leader I often lump together as an agripreneur. The other is the possessions we hold and pass as family heirlooms, including the land, which might be handed down through the family. Cutting to the chase, Dave says we can use the former to grow the operation forward and the latter can become the object of our demise. Like an anchor, it can bind us unnecessarily to unworkable situations.

Holding too tight to a specific piece of property can limit options and force the family to cope with untenable constraints. On the flip side, employing the character traits we admire from our pioneering ancestors offers us the keys to success. To ensure your legacy:

  1. Specifically define your goals. Write down what you're going to achieve, how and why.
  2. Communicate with your family. Explain the values you hope they share and the legacy you intend to leave.
  3. Don't focus on 'things.' Possessions diminish when divided. Values multiply when shared.
  4. Create a plan. Put it in writing and implement.
  5. Act. Don't hesitate. Much of what you'll learn and do in the process is new and uncomfortable, but that's a sign that you're moving in the right direction.


We should all heed Pratt's final warning: "Those families for whom the legacy they inherit and perpetuate is more about values than things tend to endure and prosper. Those for whom the legacy is more about things than values won't last."

I'm curious about your thoughts. Write to me at 'Ask Kevin.'

News & Resources for You: 

Two Legacies, by Dave Pratt of Ranching for Profit.

Legacy means different things to different people.

Re-think succession planning. 

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Formality is Better for Family

Nov 13, 2013

Signing Document   MicrosoftFrom Legacy Moment (11.08.2013).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

An article begins "... dealing with relatives can be one of the hardest issues to address as it relates to farm leases." It goes on to explain, "... with good communication and a written lease agreement, you can set up relationships that are not hard on the family."

It doesn't get any more basic than that. We struggle with formality. The farming culture is proud of its "handshake leases" and "my word is my bond" agreements. But those are vague and unclear ideas when scrutinized against what was actually said and what was heard.

The article, "Communication Key to Farm Leases" by Allan Vyhnalek, an Extension educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is full of basic wisdom. Vyhnalek has no doubt refereed a few disagreements during his career. His advice can be summarized as follows:

  • All leases should be in writing, whether between related or unrelated parties.
  • Acknowledge the actual cost of landownership.
  • Define who (landlord/tenant) pays for what level of maintenance.
  • Charge and pay a fair rent, though in some circumstances, that might be less than market.
  • Openly share information—yields, costs, maintenance needs, etc.

Through the course of the Legacy Project, I've encouraged more formal structures in all business matters. Things such as operating agreements, land leases, job descriptions and family employment policies encourage families to separate business concerns from family matters.

What have you done to better manage the demands of the business and the needs of the family? Let me know at Ask Kevin.

(By the way, it was a pleasure to hear from so many daughters and daughters-in-law last week about your experiences on the family farm. I'll be addressing the topic again in the near future. Thank you!)

News & Resources for You: 

Communication Key to Family Farm Leases by Allan Vyhnalek for Columbus Telegram (11/04/2013).

Help to ensure the legacy of your family farm. Register for a Legacy Project Workshop in Lincoln, Neb.; Peoria, Ill.; or Indianapolis, Ind.

Ready to get started at your own pace today? Visit eLegacyConnect.com. 

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She's the New Boss?

Nov 11, 2013

iStock Woman by truckFrom Legacy Moment (11.01.2013).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

"Why don't we hear more about daughters taking over the farm?" asked a concerned mother. "How do we make sure they get a chance?" Although she didn't say it, she did imply that girls are at a disadvantage, and when given a fair chance, might actually outperform their male counterparts.

It's a stereotype I've railed against all of my adult life—especially in the past eight years as I travel the country encouraging farm families to engage in the succession planning process. Sometimes, the very best candidate is your daughter. Farming today is far more about brains than it is about brawn. To support my statements, in writing this issue of Legacy Moment, I came across "Daughters Taking Charge of More Farms" in the Capital Press.

Without me repeating excerpts from the piece, I recommend you take a few minutes to read it for yourself. It's well done and provides lessons for all of us as we look for leaders in the next generation.

Keep in mind:

  • In all cases cited in the article, these emerging leaders started young—usually in their early teens with real jobs and responsibilities.
  • It's not yet a readily accepted norm to have a woman in charge on the farm, so there are some undue pressures to overcome and perform at high levels.
  • Succession—the need to identify and then prepare the next generation—will have a profound and lasting influence on the face of agriculture in the future.

I've said it many times: Planning for succession is a natural next step for a growing operation. What have you done to plan for the next generation of farmers in your family? Have you thoroughly considered all of the potential leadership candidates in your family? Have you overlooked someone based on a deep-seated stereotype?

News & Resources for You: 

Women in farming, such as Mary Rickert, lead by example.

With true passion for her work, Mary Dye is a credit to the farm community.

Need step-by-step guidance? Visit eLegacyConnect.com.

Help to ensure the legacy of your family farm. Join us at a Legacy Project Workshop in Lincoln, Neb.; Peoria, Ill.; or Indianapolis, Ind.

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Hard Work or Work Hard?

Nov 04, 2013

iStock Equipment in fieldFrom Legacy Moment (10.25.2013).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

When harvest is in full swing and everybody is putting in extra effort, it's difficult not to think about all the hard work you're doing. It isn't just in the fall, either. Spring is equally demanding, if not more so, due to unpredictable weather patterns. Then there are the cold winters, with short days and sometimes even shorter tempers as you look forward to being outside.

Work is only hard if there is NO purpose to what you do. Purpose fuels our passion and allows us to be incredibly productive. Without purpose, there is no passion; therefore, all is work. A person will work hard when they align with a clear purpose and understand the goal. They will apply extra effort and not be bothered by the minutiae.

'Hard work' implies the work you're doing is grueling, and perhaps unrewarding. Maybe it's better to say 'work hard,' which in essence means, "I put a lot of effort into my work!"

News & Resources for You:

Some great learning opportunities are right around the corner. Register online now for Elite Producer Business Conference in Las Vegas, Nev.; Legacy Project 201 Workshop in Lincoln, Neb.; Legacy Project Workshop in Peoria, Ill.; or Legacy Project 201 Workshop in Indianapolis, Ind.

Meet some inspiring farm families. Catch up on archived episodes of 'Leave a Legacy TV.'

Rethink Succession Planning. 

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