What is succession?


father and son on farm


The future of farming in the United States and the success of CROPP Cooperative depends on the successful passing of farms from one generation to the next. This need is underscored by the fact that the majority of farmland in this country will change hands in the next decade and a significant number of farms don’t have an identified heir. Farm transfers offer challenges along with opportunities for both sides of the generational equation.

Young farmers are faced with looking for ways to access affordable farmland and manage the high start up costs associated with a newly acquired farm. The older generation is challenged by the legal complexities of transfer and the emotions of handing over an operation that has created many memories and a strong personal identity connected to the farm they have loved. Thankfully, there are many resources and people to assist in this process. Here are a few tips from those who have gone through farm transfer before.

  • Good communication is essential. Being clear and honest with a good understanding of everyone’s intentions is an important step to building trust and mutual respect between parties. Don’t assume that everything will work out. This is a business arrangement and working on clear and detailed communication and a structured pathway towards transition will lead to a better chance of success.
  • Utilize the expertise of third party experts. These advisors have a variety of tools and experience to help to meet legal requirements and to work with you to structure an organized process for transfer. They can also be helpful in offering an outside perspective and mediating differences if needed.
  • Try to see the succession from the other’s point of view. Every generation does things a little bit differently and there will be changes from one farm owner to the next. Accepting that change is inevitable and necessary allows the young farmer to create an operation that reflects their goals and values while respecting what has brought the farm and previous generations to the point it is at today.

Farm succession assistance is available through a number of resources in your local area including: extension agents, farm viability programs, apprenticeship programs and local universities. These online links offer a few starting resources including some stories of successful farm transfers and some written tools to utilize as part of the conversation. While each transfer is unique for those involved, there is a benefit to relying on the long held tradition of learning from our shared experiences from those who have gone before.

University of Wisconsin Farm Transfer Toolkit

Practical Farmers of Iowa Succession Resources

Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program Public Resources

Nationwide’s Land as Your Legacy

Toolbox for Farm Transfer Planning - Land For Good

Introduction to Farm Succession Planning | OSU Extension Service (oregonstate.edu)