More Families Face Challenge of Farming Together

Workshop will focus on helping families meet those challenges.

Published on: Nov 26, 2008

Forget about corporate agriculture, farming is still a family business. But the size and scale of today's farms, along with rapidly rising farmland prices, introduce new challenges for families wanting to keep their businesses alive into the next generation.

This important topic is the focus of a special work shop featuring Alan Miller of Purdue University, to be held during Farm Futures Magazine's "Take Charge of Your Future" seminar, Jan. 21-22 in Indianapolis.

Miller, a farm business management specialist who has taught estate planning at Purdue for 13 years, also helps families with succession planning every winter, during the university's "Farming Together" program. He'll be joined by members of two families he's worked with over the years, Indiana farmers Ken Rulon and Joe and Merrill Kelsay, who will share their experiences and offer insight from their operations.

Farm Futures Senior Editor Bryce Knorr presents results of his exclusive research into multi-generational farms, and all participants can take a quiz to see what type of attitudes they have about farming together.

According to a new Farm Futures survey, one in six farms has three or more generations working together in the business, and two-thirds have at least two. Multi-generational farms are likely to be a growing force in U.S. agriculture, says Miller.

"There are significant advantages to farming in this fashion," he says. "It spreads risk, labor, management, and capital requirements over more people."

"For example, if you're a sole proprietor, what happens if you become disabled? Multi-generational farms have a built-in contingency plan. They also spread out the work load and allow people to specialize."

But in the multi-generational farms of the future, not all those who work together will be equals or play the same roles, says Miller. Some may wish to focus on management, while others provide labor, and still others only contribute capital, without actively participating in either labor or management.

"If you want to keep the farm in the family you have to find a way for people to be successful," says Miller. "It's also important to realize that succession planning isn't just something you do at the end of the cycle. It's an ongoing process. You really need to start early and be continually looking down the road."

The estate planning and multi-generational farming workshop takes place Jan. 22, on the final afternoon of the two-day summit, which features nationally known experts on a variety of crucial topics, from marketing to management to the new farm program. The seminar will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Indianapolis. For more information or to register, go to http://www.FarmFutures.com or call 800-441-1410.