Young farmers discuss taking the farm to the next generation

Fourth- and fifth-generation farmers discuss the challenges of developing 
a succession plan and taking over the family business

More than 100 young producers gathered here for the Manitoba Young Farmers conference late last month. Succession planning, connecting with consumers and financial risk management were among the topics for the fifth annual conference organized by the Keystone Agricultural Producers young farmers’ committee and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD).

“We have had a great turnout this year and also had over 40 students from Assiniboine Community College’s agribusiness program attend the second day of the conference,” said Danielle Cabernel, rural leadership specialist with MAFRD.

The two-day event gave young producers an opportunity to network and gain knowledge about farm and business management tools, including production risk management, strategic planning, understanding margin, production insurance, the value of cash advances and using insurance as a risk management tool.

John Fast

John Fast
photo: Jennifer Paige

Keynote speaker John Fast, a communication and family business specialist, tackled the topic of succession planning.

“Only 10 per cent of issues in family businesses are legal and financial. What really sinks family businesses are conflicts, grudges and unspoken assumptions. Communication is key to successful succession planning,” Fast told a room full of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-generation farmers.

He discussed the advantages of a family-run business and ran a breakout session to determine interpersonal communication styles and how these can affect a family-run operation.

“Avoiding conflict can be the death of a business. The fear of conflict and the fear of having difficult conversations is often a primary reason why succession planning doesn’t happen or fails.”

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A panel of three young area farmers discussed farm transfer plans, including issues such as retaining capital through tax savings, security of investment, separation of the ownership of the land from the farming operation, methods of transferring farm assets to children and the challenges of splitting farm assets between farming and non-farming siblings.

Chris Sumner, morning talk show host and news director for Country88, gave a presentation about why today’s producers should make an effort to connect with consumers and how they can utilize conventional and social media to better communicate with end-users.

“Connecting with the consumer has never been easier and I believe will lead to a better bottom line for your operations, so why aren’t we doing it?”

Sumner said much of the disapproval and concern about industry issues emanates from lack of knowledge around who producers are, what they do and how they do it.

“The level of knowledge about farming in today’s urban dweller is very low,” said Sumner. “It means that we need to make an effort to connect with these consumers to ensure they are receiving accurate, truthful information, day in and day out. If we don’t tell our story, who will?”

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.

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