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Across the Editor's Desk: Are you listening, Dad?

Agriculture.com Staff 01/31/2006 @ 8:24am

True to our name, we are focused on helping you achieve success and satisfaction in farming. Our editors work hard to find the best ideas for you to consider and examples to emulate.

One such story is "Success on Spruce Creek," beginning on page 16. Senior Editor Gil Gullickson tells of the great thought and many years of planning by the Harpster family to create a successful transition plan for their farm.

Sometimes, however, negative examples can be the best stimulus to impel positive action. I hope that is the outcome as you - especially senior owners of family farms - read Don Jonovic's "Can their problem be solved?" column on page 32 in the magazine.

Jonovic tells of the funeral of a prosperous farmer who dies in his 70s. Yet all of his financial success can't make up for the bitterness and feuding he leaves for his family.

The story line is all too familiar. An on-farm son and his wife devote their lives to the farm in hopes of a future where it will all work out one day. But the father's will leaves the farm to the son and his three off-farm siblings (who all live away) as equal partners.

Worse, there is no plan for running the farm, sharing profits, or having buyout agreements. The only certainty is bitterness and division.

Solutions to such big issues don't come easy. It takes considerable work and good counsel, often over a period of years. The effort is easy to postpone, particularly in families that find it difficult to communicate on such matters anyway.

Wayne Harpster dreamed of his children not only joining him but also taking over his family's Spruce Creek, Pennsylvania, farm. He understood that he would have to yield some responsibility to them in order to help prepare them to eventually make big decisions.

For Harpster, the transition from management leader to retiree was made easier by lifestyle choices. He developed interests away from the farm. He has a passion for outdoor hobbies and enjoys traveling.

Issues related to family farm transitions pop up regularly in discussion groups of Agriculture Online. Often the discussion poster is a son who aches for responsibility but feels like a lowly paid employee. He wonders if he should just pack up and start over. Sometimes the poster is a spouse, tired of worrying about an uncertain future.

Are you listening, Dad?

Loren Kruse can be reached at loren.kruse (at) meredith.com.

True to our name, we are focused on helping you achieve success and satisfaction in farming. Our editors work hard to find the best ideas for you to consider and examples to emulate.

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