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Farm succession school offers structure & support for farm transfer planning

Check out our 2018-2019 Farm Succession School dates!

All farmers care about the future of their farm. They agree that succession planning is important and that keeping the land in farming is a priority but many lack the structured and sustained support needed to pull an advisor team together, help the family make decisions, and organize the legal and financial mechanics.

Land For Good (LFG) piloted a new program that’s proved successful with farm families. Attending three-session courses, farmers receive help with goal setting, estate planning, retirement planning, family communications, taxes, legal structure, and bringing on a successor. The program is open to all New England farmers.

Last winter, a Farm Succession School, offered in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, brought eight farmers or farm couples together to participate in a full day session in December, January and February, co-led by Kathy Ruhf (LFG) and Jon Jaffe (Farm Credit East). In between sessions, they completed assignments like calculating retirement budgets or holding a family meeting to assess communication styles. Each farmer also wrote and shared a “legacy letter.”

The small groups yielded big rewards. Farmers loved the amount of attention, and valued the trust and sharing that developed among the participants, regardless of scale or type of enterprise.

It opened my mind to all that’s involved and not be afraid to seek help from professionals,” said one participant.

The camaraderie of sharing stories is both learning and inspirational to all parties involved,” shared another.

For one dairy farm couple, their Succession School experience led them to develop a timetable for their “exit” and to work with their on-farm son on transitioning management of the dairy and associated cheese operation.

This made us look at our business more closely than we have in a while,” they shared.

A NH greenhouse operator identified potential successors and developed a set of steps to determine the feasibility of transfer to one of them.

It is important to discuss and communicate and keep working on it. You are always changing – do not let family dynamics, fear and anxiety keep you from work on YOUR plan!” commented one farmer.

Participants also received ongoing no-cost technical assistance between sessions and discounted continued planning support, plus a credit toward hiring other succession-related technical assistance.

A recent study, Gaining Insights, Gaining Access, conducted by American Farmland Trust and Land For Good, shed new light on the critical need to facilitate the transition of farms and farmland in New England to a next generation of farmers. The Farm Succession School is designed for these senior farmers and farm couples looking toward retirement and farm transition.

To continue addressing this need for structured and sustained support, the next Farm Succession School will be offered to all New England farmers this winter (2017 – 2018) in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

2017 registration is now closed. 

When asked what Succession School participants would tell a fellow farmer:

Attend! This series will help you focus on creating concrete steps out of vague thoughts … steps that will move you towards successful business transition/succession.”

It is almost essential to the success of the agricultural enterprise transfer & the personal life stage planning at retirement and beyond.”

Well worth the time. Gets you thinking and planning.”

Definitely would recommend it.”

Additionally, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) Agricultural Business Training Program is partnering with LFG to offer additional technical assistance to Massachusetts farmers who complete the Succession School. MDAR will provide funding for farmers to receive succession planning technical assistance such as from an attorney, financial planner, succession coach or appraiser, for example. Details provided at the Succession School or by contacting





Farm Succession School is supported in part by a grant from the USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (NIFA #2015-04544). The development and outreach of the school received additional support from Keep Local Farms Fund of the New England Dairy Promotion Board.


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