Editors Note: The holiday season is often a time to reflect on the year's accomplishments and to celebrate family. This story is part of a three story series about the struggles and successes of members of the Farm Journal Legacy Project family, the three Legacy Project case studies you have followed in Farm Journal, Top Producer and Dairy Today magazines this year.
May, 2011 by Anna-Lisa Giannini
t’s finally spring in the Midwest and the Esther boys (Ryan and Chad) are into their first full season of farming together in their newly formed partnership, Esther Farms. As part of the family’s transition plan, Chet Esther and his wife Lori have brought the next generation fully into the operation by transferring lease agreements from Chet to his sons.
The Esthers were able to make good progress in mid-May on planting of their 4,700-acre grain operation after having some new plantings rained out early on. This past week they replanted 400 acres of corn and all but 70 acres of beans. --> Continue Reading
July, 2011 by Jeanne Bernick
From day one of the succession planning process, Chet Esther has been up-front about his plans for retirement. "I want to retire at 55," he says proudly. He doesn’t hear the snickers from his sons, Ryan and Chad, who wonder if their dad will ever stop working. Chet admits his workaholic tendencies, so the family’s doubts are understandable.
Chet and his wife, Lori, hope to build a retirement plan that provides the funds and flexibility for them to travel or take on new business ventures. "As we evaluate options for their ownership transition, Chet and Lori’s financial security comes first," says Kevin Spafford, Farm Journal succession planning expert. "Before they transfer land or other assets, they must be confident that they can live comfortably in retirement or afford the next venture in their life." --> Continue Reading
het Esther can rest easier now that he has inked a buy-sell agreement between himself and his sons, Ryan and Chad. The agreement took months to finalize and forced the family to talk about difficult what-if issues such as farm valuation, disability, divorce and dissolution.
"We’re not the kind of family that likes to think about the negative, but it was important to talk about what could happen in the future so we could protect the business," says Chet, who farms with his sons near Beardstown, Ill.
The buy-sell agreement is a crucial part of the succession plan that Chet is working through as he prepares to transfer his farming operation to his sons. The agreement obligates one business owner to buy the business upon the retirement, death or disability of the other business owner.--> Continue Reading
Ryan Esther buys when he spots a deal. His younger brother, Chad, researches for months. Ryan talks agronomics and yields; Chad talks economics and bushels. They both love to farm.
Like many farm partnerships, the Esther brothers have different skill sets and motivations that can enrich their business and create problems, says Kevin Spafford, Farm Journal succession planning expert.
"When we counsel individuals in a co-management environment, we look for areas of compatibility related to complementary and conflicting characteristics," Spafford says.--> Continue Reading
Lori Esther has been thinking a lot about the future: her children’s future, her grandchildren’s future and the future for she and her husband, Chet. As the Esther family transitions their farm to the next generation, Lori and Chet are wrestling with what retirement looks like for them.
For hard-charging, successful agripreneurs such as the Esthers, the life-altering change of retirement is not always easy. "It’s something we talk about all the time but fear actually doing," Lori says. "Not knowing what our days might look like is a bit scary." --> Continue Reading
Life happens. It especially happens on a farm where three busy families live, work and play.
"Last summer felt like one step forward, two steps back," says Chet Esther of Beardstown, Ill. He is referring to the events that piled up during the summer months to sidetrack the family from reaching its succession planning goals.
The Esthers had agreed to come up with several critical improvements to their business structure in the first six months of 2010. Responsibilities were assigned and agreed upon, yet deadlines were missed.
Ordinarily Chet is a man of action, not procrastination. He doesn’t like excuses, but … life happens. --> Continue Reading
Spread out before him on a large oak table, the numbers on paper look daunting. Even to Chet Esther, who has managed his multiple-entity farming operation for decades with confidence, the idea of bequeathing large volumes of money to multiple generations is scary.
Chet and his wife, Lori, who farm in Beardstown, Ill., have dreamed of passing on the fruits of their labor to sons Chad and Ryan and to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They specifically want to keep the land they own in the family so that estate taxes can’t rob future generations of inheritance.--> Continue Reading
No one knows a man like his brother. Siblings who grow up playing together learn the importance of solidarity. They might be rivals in the sandbox, but they are comrades against the world.
That alliance is serving brothers Ryan and Chad Esther well as they close the books on the second of two tough years in farm partnership. As part of the Farm Journal Legacy Project, the Esther family of Beardstown, Ill., is transferring the farm operation from parents Chet and Lori Esther to their sons. --> Continue Reading
Are you the next Legacy Project case study? The Farm Journal Legacy Project is devoted to cultivating multigenerational success. A key part of that is the unique and unprecedented chronicling of three case-study families as they work through their individual succession planning processes. As the Esthers wind up three years of successful farm transition work, the timing is right to learn from a new farm family. This doesn't mean we won't check in with the Esters, as the succession process never fully ends. But Top Producer is looking for a new family ready to create a lasting legacy for their farm business and family members. If you'd like to be one of the families that Farm Journal Media works with in the Farm Journal Legacy Proejct, please send a letter that shares an overview of your operation, your succession planning frustrations and your goals to LegacyProject@farmjournal.com. For more details, call (877)523-7411.