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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.

Is Your Legacy Values or Possessions?

Nov 20, 2013

iStock Cattle MountainsFrom Legacy Moment (11.15.2013).
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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. 

Legacy 20Pioneer 20DuPont 20Attribution 202012




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