Cousining

Published on: 11:24AM Aug 16, 2011

Leavens FamilyFrom Legacy Moment eNewsletter (08/12/2011)
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As the family farm is passed to the “cousin” generation, it is critically important that family members have good communication and common bonds.

You may have seen my interview on “Leave a Legacy TV” with Leslie Leavens-Crowe of Leavens Ranches in Santa Paula, Calif. The Leavens family is not only committed to remaining a farming family, they also want to ensure that family bonds endure through the generations. As the farm passes from the sibling generations to the cousins (children/grandchildren), it becomes more difficult to communicate because of geographic separation, family interests and personal pursuits.
 
In the interview, Leslie explains how her family has bridged the gap and developed a “cousining” process.
 
“We are committed to remaining a family in farming,” Leslie says. “That’s what we’re trying to instill in the next generations. For the younger kids, say 12, 13 and down, we have something called Camp Mary. Every couple of years, we bring the kids out for a couple of days. During this time, we’ll teach them about the family and we’ll teach them a little bit of our history.”
 
Each of the participants plants a tree in the orchard. Leslie says they take the kids to go look at their trees—they each have an avocado tree with their name on it—and that is the importance of cousining.
 
She continues, “For the kids who are a little bit older, we have a program so they can come out for a couple of weeks to learn what it is to really work on the ranch. They work side by side, not only with their cousins, but also with the workers who live here, and on whom all of this depends.
 
“It is about succession. But it’s not just succession of the family business. It’s succession of the family.”
 
News & Resources for You:
 
Learn more about Leavens Ranches' cousin generation on a 2010 segment of "Leave a Legacy TV." Also, read more about the Leavenses in the Legacy Project 2011 Report.
 
A Family Employment Policy helps to instill a businesslike environment for all family members participating in the operation.
 
Like the Leavenses, are you working side-by-side with your cousins? Share your story, solutions and questions. 
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