I am also now a grandmother who delights in reading Penny Grace stories, rocking her to sleep and sharing her giggles. Life is precious.

Froese elaine
Certified Farm Family Coach
Elaine Froese, CSP, CAFA, CHICoach and her team of coaches are here to help you find harmony thro...

Does your dairy have the succeeding generations anxious about founders who are not willing to let go of the reins of power? This begs a question: “When is Dad or Mom going to let go of ownership?” Maybe we need to ask a different question: “What does a good day look like to you on the farm as you continue to age?”

The transfer of labour, management and ownership can happen in stages over time, but it will happen, either intentionally with good planning and agreements – or by death.

There are several reasons why the aging founder continues to hang on:

  • They don’t realize 10 years has passed by; they are busy with farm operations, and they are too busy to plan. To resolve this, announce each member of the farm team’s age and set a date for a discovery meeting to talk about transition. Use an outside facilitator if you think it would help to keep discussions safe and respectful.

  • They have bought into the myth if you stop farming or retire, then you will die soon after. Hogwash. Your intent is to keep the aging founder engaged and “in the loop” with the happenings of the farm business. You also want to have your name on some equity so you can leverage your growth vision.

  • They are paralyzed with fear about inheritance fights. They don’t want you to know their current will divides the farm land base into three equal parts with all of their heirs, including the non-business heirs. It is now 2018, and it is time to be aware and clear about the contents of the business founder’s will. Who are the executors? Who has power of attorney? What is the consequence of the trusts set up?

    There are many questions to help the next generation sort out its expectations – because your farm business cannot afford surprises. As a farm family coach, I hear often parents don’t want their children to fight. That is not the problem. The issue is the mindset conflict is bad. Conflict is a normal part of life and is not bad. What is bad is unresolved conflict or the avoidance of finding workable solutions for all parties involved.

  • They are unsure where their income is going to come from because they’ve sunk every dollar back into the farm. This lack of a personal wealth bubble has parents feeling strapped. Tell them it is high time to seek out an agricultural smart financial planner who charges a fee for their service but won’t pressure them to buy investments.

    People sleep better at night when they know they won’t outlive their resources. My financial planner, who is a member of the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors, was able to run my numbers and assure me I am good with funds until I am 102. You can also start tracking your family living expenses and cash flow to understand what the realistic expectation is for future living costs.

  • They don’t want to move from the main yard. That’s OK, you can still take ownership and give them a life estate to stay longer or, better yet, you can source other options to be activated if and when the elder generation needs assisted living.

    I suspect the reluctance to move is more about who is going to deal with Mom’s great collection of stuff or Dad’s history of being on that property for more than six decades. People can let go of many things when they feel what they are moving towards is more beneficial or exciting for them. Are you going to help volunteer to downsize? Many of the farm couples who have changed living sites tell me they wish they would have done it much earlier.

  • They have not accomplished all the legacy pieces they expected to be in place by this time of their life. I met a grandfather who was busy making sure his grandson would have a piece of his original farmland. This legacy building was very important to his plan, although his other planners may not have agreed with his decisions.

    Ask the elder couple what they wish to be remembered, what possessions are important for them to pass on with stories attached and what is their most important value for the family to continue expressing. Letting go of money and land is not the only part of legacy building.

So how can we be more intentional about the years ahead?

Recognize what age tasks are important for you in your current decade. For those 60-plus, it is about starting over and creating legacy. Anyone in their 70s still has a lot to contribute to management and will be good mentors if their opinion is respected. The 80-year-old crowd takes great pride in ownership.


Their letting go will happen when they don’t fear failure of the next generation, and they feel their legacy plans will be honoured.

Realize there are no guarantees. Farmers embrace avoidance behaviour and hate to make mistakes. Older farmers have seen train wrecks in succession explosions and are fearful of making the wrong decisions for transfer of assets. Build a good team of trusted advisers and work out your plan. Having no plan is a disaster.

Each day we live is a gift. Those of us who have lost loved ones to accidents learned this early in life. Be more present to what is happening today, and don’t dwell on “woulda, coulda, shoulda” attitudes about what happened in the past. Use your warm hands to bless your family with gifts of love, attention, affection and affirmation.

Love does not read minds. I cannot guess what you need to do to create more certainty for your family business legacy, but you know. Get it done.  end mark

Elaine Froese CSP, CAFA, is blessed to have a loving farm family who shares the vision of a rock ‘n’ roll farm business. Visit Elaine Froese to buy her books to empower your family. Sign up for her online course: “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” at Elaine Froeselaine Froese.

Elaine Froese