Until something becomes urgent on the farm, we might not make it a priority. During a typical day, we respond to what's happening around us, and whatever is most urgent usually wins out.
Legacy planning usually isn't urgent, unless something happens to suddenly make it a priority. There's so much to get done on the farm each day that the idea of planning for something that's going to happen in the distant – or maybe not-so-distant – future often slides down the list.
I've heard of situations where the older generation hasn't made these plans a priority. Frankly, they're putting it off. Some may be doing that unintentionally – meaning to address it, but more urgent things keep getting in the way. For others, it's about maintaining control or thinking it will be fine to wait.
When this happens on a farm, the younger generation might start to believe they don't have any alternative but to wait for others to do something. Maybe they try to get the conversation started, but meet resistance. So they give up until later, give in to frustration – or, something I've seen more recently – do something about it.
Rather than feeling left in the dark to worry about an uncertain future, some farmers from the younger generation are getting a legacy plan in place for their own families – before the older generation. They're taking action first by taking responsibility for moving forward with their own legacy plans.
The younger generation here is 'leading up' – setting an example with their actions. If the older generation has been resistant to suggestions of starting, watching the younger generation go through the process can be motivating and eye-opening. The old saying 'actions speak louder than words' is at work there.
They watch them do the very thing that they'd been suggesting – taking real action rather than sitting back or complaining why someone else isn't doing it. These younger farmers are modeling the way for others – and that behavior can be very persuasive.
If you're in the younger generation on your family's farm, realize that there are things you can do to take action on your own plans for the future. You don't have to wait indefinitely, wondering what's going to happen, if you have not yet started a plan.
Remember that your actions may be influential to others. While no one can make anyone do what they want, you can guide them in a particular direction through what you say and do.
Older generation: What will the certainty of a written legacy plan mean, both to you and to the younger generation? Having a plan in writing brings everyone more piece of mind when they know how the farm is going to transition in the future.
If younger members of your farm – perhaps your successor leader – are asking you to start a plan, maybe this winter is the time to make it a priority. It's the most powerful tool you have to ensure your farm's successful future.