Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Paul Bootsma, CFFO Field Service Manager
Farm succession continues to be a topic of discussion and concern among farmers today. This topic has been covered on more occasions in this medium in the past. There are several differing opinions on the number of farms and the dollar amount which is assumed will change generational hands over the next 10-15 years.
Recently, one of the CFFO’s district associations invited a succession planning consultant to make a presentation at their annual meeting. The speaker showed how communication becomes extremely important before, during, and following the succession process. He suggested that succession planning can begin as soon as the next generation becomes part of the farm business full time.
Lawyers are involved in the succession process, but it’s important to remember that they come with the perspective of making money. The succession planning consultant reminded listeners that they do look for ways to profit from the process of succession. Their recommendations might not be the best for the well-being of the farm family.
During a trip to eastern Ontario last month this issue came up again during a visit at a kitchen table over coffee. This farming couple had gone through the process of taking over the farm from his parents. All four were in agreement with the entire succession plan, which they built together and successfully completed. However, they were disappointed because they expected the process to go smoothly, considering all participants had agreed on the plan. But it took much longer than they felt it needed to. The young farmer described the ordeal as painful.
On the other hand, during this same trip, I encountered an ongoing non-family farm transition. I sat down with a couple nearing retirement, who have set a five-year plan in place to transfer their farm to a young couple who are not related to them. This is a good news story for two reasons: first, both parties are satisfied with the process, and second, these young farmers have the opportunity to own a farm business that they could not have had otherwise.
Farmers are resilient people, which is part of the success of farming in Ontario. They find ways to make it work. As farm businesses grow larger and involve members of different generations, communication and planning become an important and significant part of the daily business. The CFFO continues its efforts to protect and preserve farmland so the generations to come will be able to farm in Ontario.