Good farm succession planning and environmental stewardship may not seem joined at the hip, but Jeremy Funk of the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba is examining a possible connection.
The fifth-year PhD student is in the process of surveying farmers about their succession plans in an effort to explore the relationship between the two.
“Some of my initial hypotheses are showing or proposing a positive relationship between family farms that are doing well with succession, and how well they’re dealing with the pressures of environmentally sustainable farming practices, because they have more of a long-term succession and business perspective,” he said.
Funk hopes to survey several hundred producers in the coming months, and has been working with Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), the Manitoba Pork Council and other organizations to connect with producers across the province.
Although his research interests are in the area of small and medium-size family business structures, and the impact of corporate social responsibility, Funk said family farms are a “classic” example of this.
“I’m not from a farm background, but I do have a rural background, and family business background, so this is an area that really interests me,” Funk said.
To get in touch with farmers, he attended the annual KAP meeting in late January, pitching his research project to farmers with positive results. Funk was kept busy all day with producers wanting to speak to him about success issues and fill out a survey.
One of those who took the time to fill out a questionnaire was Leonard Esau, who has a farrow-to-finish hog operation near Steinbach.
“This is something I’m looking at, because I have a son who wants to get into farming, and we’re looking at flipping it over to him, or having him join me,” he said.
To help with that process, he has sought advice from accountants, friends and others, but said having more information on the issue is never a bad thing.
Esau noted current issues surrounding the hog industry in Manitoba will also affect his succession decisions.
“I’m not going to bring my son into something that’s not viable, so that’s what is holding us back,” he said.
Funk hopes results of his research may eventually have practical applications for producers like Esau.
“I think it can be helpful to the industry in terms of understanding better how they can face these challenges of succession and environmental regulation,” he said.