Choosing to Farm – Planning for the Future by: Emily Morrison

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Succession. That is the biggest issue I see in agriculture today. With the number of children opting to take over family farms decreasing, we need to be concerned. Everyone knows it is next to impossible (basically impossible) to get into dairy farming without a family connection. Our only hope of continuing the proud dairy culture we enjoy in Canada is to ensure that farm children are not just choosing to farm, but choosing to do so with enthusiasm and innovation.

Families need to have a plan that clearly points out how the transition will work, the time span it will cover and the tasks of those involved and when they will change to new employees. I’m sure some families have been this transparent when it came to the process, but I feel like there are still some that are not. We often hear of fights and disagreements that lead to the farms eventual downfall. Not an ideal solution when the industry needs its farmers and quota is difficult to get back. Are there even resources which farmers can use as guidelines to help?

Pride is a stickler though. The successful transition should not negate all the hard work, sweat and dedication the elder put into the farm initially. Nor should it neglect to recognize when the successor will be at his/her career peak. What good is taking over the farm if your prime is behind you? And when the two parties are not on the same wavelength regarding the farm’s future, the plan needs to point out who has control over decisions and how and when that will change.

It’s not easy working with family. The goal at the end of the transition is not just to have transferred the ownership or position of power to the next generation, but also to have a family that enjoys each other’s company. There shouldn’t be hard feelings for making changes or bringing innovation to the farm.

I guess the key is to finding a way for the elders to let go. Once the transition is complete, how do you get them to leave the decision making to their successor? Somehow we need to help these transitions happen, make them smooth and ensure the future of the industry for the generations to come.


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