Farmers take important steps to dig in to farm succession planning

Winter 2024 cohort of senior generation farmers discussing around a table.
Winter 2024’s cohort of farmers in discussion with Jae, Land For Good’s Massachusetts Field Agent.

Most farmers we work with want their land to stay in agriculture, but few senior generation farmers have plans in place that articulate who their successor is and exactly how the land, equipment, business, and other assets will be passed onto future farmers. Making these decisions and confirming the appropriate financial and legal tools to formalize the transition is often an emotional and complex process.

To support farmers with this challenge, Land For Good offers an annual Farm Succession School for senior generation farmers. Introduced in 2015, this unique course curriculum is designed to help farmers think through the many aspects of succession planning, clarify vision and goals, get next steps on paper, and review necessary documents to provide for a smooth transition. It provides farmers with expert guidance on the many aspects of succession and transfer planning, while also allowing farmers ample time to share and learn from other farmers facing similar questions.

This winter, 10 farms attended our Farm Succession School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, hosted in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) Business Training Program. Our staff walked farmers through the various stages of succession planning. They introduced tools to evaluate and support succession planning goals, facilitated peer-to-peer conversations illuminating individual experiences and visions for the future, and were available to help clarify and name next steps. By the end of the course, all 10 farms made strides toward building their succession plans.

“It was so rewarding to witness the process folks went through throughout the course of the school. At the beginning everyone was expressing feelings of overwhelm, fear, and uncertainty that they could ever overcome the hurdles they were facing regarding succession. By the end of the school, all of them were coming from a place of optimistic determination.”

-Kali Lucey, LFG’s New Hampshire Field Agent

Farmers left the course feeling confident in the progress they made and determined to keep going – and they shared some key takeaways. They valued peer-to-peer learning, hearing other farmers’ stories, and feeling that “we’re not alone” in this. They reported a better understanding of the process of farm succession and transfer, and from there how to develop a plan. They appreciated the many resources made available and how to access service providers. As a result of the course, farmers also shared that there was an increase in communication between family members and potential successor that “helped to start the conversation.”

Winter 2024 cohort of senior generation farmers pose for a group picture with Land For Good staff.
Final session complete! Winter 2024 cohort pictured with Land For Good staff, Jae Silverman – Massachusetts Field Agent, Shemariah Blum-Evitts – Interim Executive Director, and Kali Lucey – New Hampshire Field Agent, and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resource’s Laura Barley – Farm Viability Planner.

“I appreciated learning in a structured way about the steps to take for a successful transfer and now have access to resources for additional assistance”

“It was great to get to listen to other farmers in the sessions and know that I’m not alone in this process”

“Highly recommend [others] take the course. You will learn things you didn’t know you needed”

“The networking, teaching, and laughter with fellow farmers was valuable”

-shared our participants.

We look forward to next winter’s Farm Succession Schools, locations to be determined across New England. Express interest for a school in your area, and get added to our outreach list. Get in touch with us for assistance sooner. In the meantime, we invite you to check out our Transferring A Farm resources! Our recent website upgrade has improved access to resources with a new searchable directory. You can refine your search by different aspects of the process. Some of our most referenced resources include:

Funding for the 2024 Massachusetts Farm Succession School was provided by Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) Agricultural Business Training Program.

PO Box 625
Keene, New Hampshire 03431
Phone: 603-357-1600