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Baby Steps for Transitioning the Farm or Ranch

By   /  December 4, 2017  /  2 Comments

Are you a “senior” farmer or headed that direction, and wondering what retirement might look like, or IF there could be retirement? Here are a few steps to figuring out where to go that are especially helpful with family coming together for the Holidays.

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I chuckled the first time I was asked over the phone if I would like the “senior’s discount” for age 55 plus. I remember thinking, “Wow…I now qualify for this! How did that happen?” This followed quickly with wondering what’s in my future as a senior.

As you begin to near some of these ‘milestones’ of aging, you begin to realize time has a way of slipping quickly by, something like the toilet paper roll that spins faster as it reaches the end of the roll.

Many aging, 55 plus farmers are procrastinating, and not sleeping well. There is a tug of war on their heart regarding their fear of failure. Should they turn things over gradually? What will their new roles be? Will anyone appreciate them when they get older or thank them for what they have helped to grow? Please promise yourself and your next generation farm partners that you are not going to sit idly by but will engage the power needed to take action.

Embracing Your Power for Action

Here’s what you can do:

1. You are going to speak to your spouse about letting go of power and control of the farm, and what that might look like.
This means taking your spouse out on a date to have fun, to engage in intimate conversations about what is keeping you awake at night. Then decide on the date for “becoming the hired man again.” I do not expect that you are ever going to retire, just “re-invent” yourself and your roles.

2. You are making a date with your accountant and tax planners to discuss your net worth, your living costs, and your intentions to bring along the next generation.
Remember that tax deadline that you always honor with your accountant? How about a deadline for farm transition? It is a process and may be a series of dates, not just one day. Take the time to set target dates for action for your farm business’s continued success. Let your trusted team of advisors help you confirm what prices and money targets need to be proposed.

3. Action begets more action, so you are going to have coffee in a casual way with your family to talk about your dreams for the next new chapter in your life.
This includes the farming and non-farm business heirs. Perhaps you can meet with each adult child independent of the others. Trust me; they are scared that you are not dealing with your future lifestyle choices, and they want you to enjoy the fruit of your labor. Have courageous conversations.

Elaine has published a number of books and audio options to help you build your farm legacy through good communication and manage your business well. Click to learn more about them.

4. When nights are short of sleep choose some good reading.
Consider my book: Do the Tough Things Right…how to prevent communication disasters in family business.

5. Book some counseling time if you are emotionally distraught and need new coping skills.
I am encouraged when coaching clients realize that “counseling is about recovery and coaching is about discovery.” Some folks need to have therapy to release the burden that is keeping them stuck in neutral. Take care of your mental health.

6. Face your fears.
Talk with your spouse. Set dates. Act. Keep your promises. Honor the timelines and dates. Be concrete with your proposals. Then your entire family will sleep well at night, and be sure of their future.

Remember, it is your farm, your family, and your choice.

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About the author

Elaine Froese (pronounced "phrase") grew up on a farm, lives on a farm near Boissevain in Southwestern Manitoba, and understands agriculture from the ground up. She was dubbed "Canada's Farm Whisperer" for her work sitting at kitchen tables and coaching farm families for the last 35 years. As a professional speaker, writer and coach, she specializes in helping farm families work through issues surrounding succession, business or that family favorite - communication. You can learn more about her at her website:


  1. Oogie McGuire says:

    What about transitions where there are NO immediate heirs, farming or otherwise? How to find someone to take over then?

  2. curt gesch says:

    Thank you for your helpful suggestions. I read books by David Kline and “his” FARMING magazine in which I see indirectly how the transition can be accomplished by building strong communities well before the years in which the farmers become seniors. (I was asked if I wanted a seniors’ discount on a haircut when I was in my forties. My daughter chortled.)


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