Kevin Spafford works the Sioux Falls, S.D., conference room like a whirling dervish. He cajoles the workshop crowd to participate, provoking questions and—most importantly—their thoughts and opinions. As part of the Farm Journal Legacy Project, Spafford, who serves as Farm Journal’s succession planning expert, is leading a series of workshops for farm families across the U.S.
Spafford’s role is to guide attendees through the process of implementing family discussions and completing a comprehensive succession plan.
"We’re going to look at where you, your family and your operation are today and where you want to be tomorrow," Spafford explains. Several in the audience are assigned a hand-held polling device to anonymously answer Spafford’s ongoing questions. The collective results are then projected on video screens throughout the day.
Don and Dianne Halverson of Ramona, S.D., are typical of the 100-plus attendees from four states at the Sioux Falls workshop. "We want to start giving something to our kids, none of whom want to farm, but we want to keep the land together as a family unit," Dianne says. "We grew up watching our parents work so hard to keep their operations together."
Don adds: "The land was homesteaded by our parents. It’s been our lifestyle, and it’s our heritage. When it comes to transferring the land to the next generation, you don’t get a second chance to do it over. When you’re gone, it’s a done deal."
KEY ELEMENTS OF PLANNING. Spafford is quick to point out that succession planning and estate planning are two different entities. While estate planning is certainly part of a comprehensive succession plan, estate plans are designed only to mitigate estate tax. Succession plans, on the other hand, transition the farm or agribusiness to the next generation as a viable business.
During the daylong workshop, Spafford expands on five key elements of a succession plan: leadership development from one generation to the next; ownership transition of assets; financial security; estate planning strategies; and business growth and development. He points out that a comprehensive plan builds families and futures. It provides opportunity for the next generation, offers the entire family clarity about where things stand, focuses on an efficient business plan and offers a vision for the future. He advises families to commit to their plan and review and revise it annually.
As the day goes by, the discussions help create a network among the attendees, who share their personal stories with each other during breaks and lunch.
"What’s so good about this workshop is all the input by the participants," says Linda Johansen of Hadley, Minn., who attended with her son Doug. "It makes you realize there are a lot people in the same boat."
2010 Legacy Workshops
Lincoln, Neb., Marriott Cornhusker
Des Moines, Iowa, Pioneer Auditorium
Champaign, Ill., Hilton Garden Inn
Columbia, Mo., Stoney Creek Inn
Wichita, Kan., Marriott Wichita
Indianapolis, Ind., Fishers Indiana Forum
Columbus, Ohio, Bridgewater Hotel & Conference Center
Lansing, Mich., Kellogg Center at MSU
To register for a Legacy Project workshop, visit www.farmjournallegacyproject.com and click on the Events tab, or call (800) 909-3681.