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Caught in the Gap

November 27, 2012
By: Jeanne Bernick, Top Producer Editor

While the staff at Top Producer strives to always provide up-to-date business information, sometimes events happen during the gap between when the magazine is sent to the printer and it reaches your mailbox. That happened this fall.

Our November cover story, "Full-Circle Farming," portrayed Top Producer of the Year finalist Mike Stamp as a savvy Decatur, Mich., businessman who has been changing the local skyline. Soon after the magazine hit farm country, your calls and e-mails alerted us that big changes were occurring at Stamp’s operations—particularly that recent audits had revealed irregularities. Our team quickly reached out to Stamp for an update.

The operation’s attorney, Michael S. McElwee, responded at Stamp’s request. McElwee informed us that Northstar Grain and Stamp Farms are both under new management. The attorney says Stamp is in full cooperation with the new leadership, lenders, the Michigan Farm Produce Insurance Authority and others involved in the situation. Harvest and operations at both entities continued at press time.

We were clearly caught off guard by Stamp’s abrupt change in circumstances, but we will stay on point as the dust settles. Our team will continue to report the facts of the situation—with an eye on what we can all learn from the experience. In the meantime, if you’d like to know how Top Producer of the Year finalists are chosen, visit www.TopProducer-Online/TPOY. Lastly, thanks to all of you who reached out.

Peace in Planning. When I first met Chet Esther on his Illinois farm three years ago, he offered a warm handshake and wide smile, but there was a subtle anxiousness about him. The Esthers had a right to be nervous—they were opening up their life and financials to the world as the first Top Producer succession planning case study family in the Farm Journal Legacy Project. Today, Esther smiles with peace of mind knowing the farm is transitioning to his sons, Ryan and Chad.

I’ve learned a lot with the Esthers, listening to their farm history and watching their family evolve with the succession planning process. For starters, I learned that even the most successful farmers don’t know where to start when it comes to farm transition. The Esthers were humble enough to acknowledge what they didn’t know, and asked many questions through which other farmers benefited from the answers. Most importantly, succession planning is a process. It’s not simply setting up an estate plan, signing documents and sealing the will. Succession planning is evolving and organic. It changes with each farming year, land sale, birth and death. You can read more about what the Esthers learned on page 46 of this issue.

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FEATURED IN: Top Producer - December 2012

 
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