Finding a farm heir

Keeping the farm in the family for generations is a dream for many. But if there are no relatives willing to be your successor, you’ll have to look outside the family for someone to take over the operation. Don’t wait till you’re ready to retire to find that successor because by then it’s almost too late to start looking. Finding the right fit can take many, many years.

Melissa O’Rourke is an Extension farm and agribusiness specialist at Iowa State University. She says the first logical place to find someone who wants a career in farming is in the neighborhood.

"You could start with neighbors. Are there young people there who have an interest in farming? And remember, you might want to be looking for a farm family who perhaps has interest in farming, young people interested in farming but maybe they have a limited land base or a limit in assets, but there’s a high level of interest and energy," says O'Rourke.

Decide what matters most for the future of your farmland and look for someone with the qualities you want.

"What is their community involvement or their involvement in school, ag organizations, FFA, 4-H? You’re looking for a young person who’s not just sitting around hoping a farm is going to drop into his or her lap," she says. "You want to look for people who have ideas, energy, good work ethic, honesty, and that you can work with them over a period of years and really get to know them."

O’Rourke has found if you have a long-term relationship with your successor over a period of years, you’re more likely to be satisfied with the arrangement and maximize his or her chance to succeed.