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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.

Does Experience Matter?

Mar 15, 2011

Corn Seedling CompressedFrom Legacy Moment eNewsletter (03/11/2011)
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The other day I happened across a 2007 article from Amber Waves, the USDA magazine. It referred to the ‘turnover rate’ in farming---the number of farms going out of business, versus the number of farming startups.
The title of the article, “Experience Counts: Farm Business Survival in the U.S.”, hints at the theme. From the article: “The total number of U.S. farms has changed little in recent years. High exit rates are offset by high rates of entry into farming. There is no apparent shortage of people willing to try farming, but the challenge is in creating a viable farm business.
"Many pre-harvest crop decisions (such as the timing and extent of soil preparation, seeding, and pest management) vary with local soil and weather conditions, and operators often learn through trial and error as much as through training, extension services, and suppliers.
"Similarly, successful livestock enterprises require breeding, feeding, and culling savvy that improves with experience. Marketing decisions—when to sell, how much, to whom, and under what kind of arrangement—also benefit from experience and new information. Moreover, the relevant experience is specific to a particular farm business (encompassing the commodities being produced, the services provided, and the resources available to that business), which is why business age matters, and not simply the operator’s age and personal experience.”
The reasons for comprehensive succession planning are many. The demand for good planning models, relevant tools and good information is almost overwhelming. As the article attests, business age, not just operator age and experience, make a difference in operational success. The family farm is facing a multitude of external challenges, from economies of scale to consumer trends, from technology to misinformed special interests. Not only must we be diligent about addressing these external challenges, we must face the internal threats, insufficient planning (or – in many cases – none at all), and failure to prepare the next generation.
Is 2011 your year to begin the process? Commit today to take the steps necessary to save your family farm. Plan now to preserve, promote and pass your family farm to a well-prepared next generation.

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