If Your Plane Goes Down…Will the Farm Continue?

By David Marrison @FarmTransition

On December 13, I was flying from Columbus, Ohio to teach two days of farm transition workshops for North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Dairy Producers Association.  As Delta Flight 1695 began its ascent to head south, the plane started shaking and I heard terrible back firing noises from the right engine.  When I looked out my window on the wing, I was surprised to see the right engine on fire.  The next 15 minutes were quite nerve racking and soul searching for everyone on board.  My quick disaster calculations had us only having a 50% chance of surviving at best.

Over those 15 minutes, I had time to think of all the things I had not completed and what the ramifications of my impending peril would be.  Some of the things which flashed through my mind included: Why didn’t I finish the new version of my will?  Does anyone know the combination to the safe?  Does anyone know where to find all my passwords to all the accounts?  Does anyone know where I hid the bars of gold and silver (that’s, right, I don’t have any).  Thankfully, we were able to land on a runway cleared just for us, complete with emergency vehicles.  I credit the entire Delta crew for handling this situation with a great deal of calm and professionalism. They were literally life savers.

So this year, it is my goal to make sure my loved ones and office team are prepared for a future without me.  While I am not planning to die, wouldn’t it be easier for everyone involved if a good transition plan was in the works for both home and your farm?   In fact, a good transition plan may take over a decade to execute with your farm successors. So isn’t now a great time to start?

Make a goal to get started on your farm and personal transition plan in 2017.  Begin by asking, “If my plane crashed what would be the immediate questions my successors would  have?”  and “What do they need to know in order to keep the farm chugging along?”

Start by making a list of all the key advisors and service providers that might need to be contacted.  I remember one time when my parents left for a week long school board convention and the compressor on the milk tank went down.  Luckily, my dad had a list of who to call (AI Technician, Electrician, Dairy Field Man, Feed Mill, Milk Truck Driver, and Vet) in the case of an emergency or problem.  Sounds simple enough right?

Long term, it is a great idea to make a list of all the tasks which need to be taught to the next generation. Brainstorm on the major tasks for each section of the farm business.  For instance, a list could be made up for the Financial Management aspects which need to be taught.  These could include how to print checks, how budgets for each livestock and crop enterprise are developed, how the electronic record keeping system is managed and how the balance sheet is developed for the bank for the annual operating loan.

In Crop Production Management, what are all the tasks that need to be done to raise a productive crop.  When does the next generation get to make the variety selection, determine the fertility program, decide the weed control plan, and decide how many acres will be planted of each crop?

Other areas of consideration for developing transition plans (task lists) include: Machinery & Equipment Repair, Employee Management, Livestock Management, and Marketing.

Of course, these lists can get quite long and could be overwhelming!  So, where do you start?  It has been said many times that transition planning is just like eating an elephant.  To be successful at it, you need to just eat one bite at a time!

Set goals to list all the responsibilities for each area and then see if the next generation is proficient (or has even been taught) in each of the responsibilities or tasks.  If not, decide when to teach them.  One new task taught per day means by the end of 2017, you will have taught 365 new things to your successors!  Grab a calendar and track your progress.  Just take it one bite and one day at a time.

Need more help, contact David Marrison, OSU Extension at 440-576-9008 or marrison.2@osu.edu

 

 

 

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