Cultivating Your Farm’s Future has been developed by University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension as a companion workbook for participants in Extension’s various programs for farm succession and transition planning. This workbook may also be useful for service professionals as they facilitate conversations around farm succession planning with their clients.
The workbook provides worksheets and checklists to help farm members and families through a three-step process:
Section 1: Where is the farm now?
This section asks you to “take inventory” of aspects of your farm and family. This includes the history of your farm, family, the current farm enterprise and management, ownership of assets, number of employees and how income and expenses are currently distributed.
Section 2: Where do you want to be?
This section provides worksheets and activities to help farm members develop their intentions for the succession process. This is the time for farm members to consider the future: what do you want to do? Will the owner generation be fully retired? Or will there be a significant period of time that the two generations work as full partners? Whatever the timeline, your ideas and intentions for the future are easier to attain if they are written down and discussed by all farm members.
Gathering this information, writing it down and organizing it will help the succession process in two ways:
- It provides farm members an opportunity to discuss the current status of the farm. Sometimes this is the first opportunity for the successor generation to see the financials and learn the full details of the farm’s operations.
- It puts this information at your fingertips when the service providers request it. This allows you to be better prepared. Being better prepared can also make your time with paid service professionals more efficient and less expensive.
Section 3: How do we get there?
Working through Sections 1-2 will help you form ideas and strategies to consider. Section 3 provides you with basic information about common strategies and tools you can use in developing your succession plan. However, succession planning is not a do-it-yourself project. This is when you rely on trusted service professionals to review the materials you’ve gathered in Sections 1-2 and help you develop your unique strategy for making a successful transition.
If you feel it’s helpful to have someone outside of your farm or family facilitate or coordinate these discussions, we have five Extension educators trained and certified as farm succession coordinators. Their contact information can be found below. You don’t have to live in their county to work with them, but you may want to choose one that geographically close to you.
If you feel you want to start this workbook without any outside help, you can identify maybe two or three worksheets in each section that you think will be helpful to your situation. Watch the corresponding videos so you get a better idea of how to use them. You don’t have to start at page one and complete every page to the end. Some worksheets won’t be relevant to your situation. Several of the worksheets are intended for each family or farm member to complete on their own and then shared and discussed as a group. The videos will give you directions as to making copies for everyone, should that be needed.
While the workbook can be helpful to organize your information, your vision, and some options, it does not replace working with your accountant, tax specialists, or attorney. The goal of the workbook is to clarify your thoughts and make your meetings with the professionals more efficient.
The worksheets will help you organize your information to understand where you are now, analyze where you want to be, and help you make decisions on how to get there.
Contacts for the program:
La Crosse County
UW-Center for Dairy Profitability