Can you -- and should you -- go home again?
Several years ago we bought your workbook and seminar on farm transition for use with my extended family (brothers, sister, and mother). However, we couldn't get them to work together on a plan.
My wife and I (we're in our early 50s) ended up signing a contract to purchase one of my mother's farms two years ago. Dad had died a year earlier and we wanted to be near her.
My wife and I started from scratch 21 years ago 1,000 miles south of Mom and the farm we are buying, and we have built a fairly successful farm operation here. It's all rented land, great cash flow, no debt.
I am confident we can sell our farming businesses here and make enough to start over again on the farm we're buying. I do, in fact, have several people interested in buying our operations here.
We have a problem that has us stuck. My wife thinks I should go up north by myself and get the new operation going, while she and our three kids run the existing operation.
If I make it happen, then she will come up. I know I can make it work, but I need her support from the beginning. What do we do?
It seems A.A. is an entrepreneurial farmer who is also powerfully attracted to his family's home farm. Those traits should be explored, because, in combination, they could lead to bad decisions.
An entrepreneur is an individual who is a gambler, a driver, a creator, a builder, someone who is brilliant at taking risks and starting or growing something, but not all that interested in handling the details of keeping all that running smoothly.
Men and women like this have been critical factors in building our economy. When things go the way they should, entrepreneurs work their magic, leave the details to others, and move on to other risks, opportunities, and dreams. Ideally.
A.A. wants to move on to new things, and he wants his wife not only to support him but also to dive in and risk everything with him. He has a dream and wants her to leave their successful and acceptable reality behind in pursuit of that dream.
It's a conflict between dreams and reality. They're involved in a complicated, emotional family and family farm web that makes A.A.'s strategy anything but clear-cut.
Without his mom's and his family's farms in the mix, the prudent business decision would probably be to keep building the current successful operation.
But A.A. wants something else. He wants to get back to the home farm and prove he can make it work.
He probably can. But to do that, he must ask his family to take a leap from a steady ship to a rocky canoe heading toward a glittering island.
At 25, maybe 35, that lust for adventure would be appropriate. But A.A. may want to look into the mirror and ask, "Am I doing this for my family or for myself?"
Now in their 50s, this couple is not at the time of life where entrepreneurial risk is something to take on lightly. Maybe the better option is to send their sons north to be the new entrepreneurs.