Farm succession planning often takes a course correction

For 20 years, Land For Good has pioneered new ways to help farmers access, secure, and transfer farmland across New England. Some farmers seek us out multiple times for assistance. For retiring farmers, a farm transfer can take months, even years, to plan and complete. 

Farmers like Mike of Smolak Farms.

photo credit Smolak Farms

Located on 130 acres in North Andover, Massachusetts, Smolak Farms has been in the family for 3 generations. Parts of the historic homestead are nearly 300 years old. For the past 50+ years, Mike, grandson of original founders Martin and Magdelenna Smolak, has overseen the farm that has become a community staple. As he looks toward retirement, Mike needs to take on the added step of identifying a successor to take over the farm.

As Land For Good’s first farmer-client in 2004, Mike has done a lot of succession planning work over the years. 

“So few farmers have done their business planning or succession planning. We can’t afford not to do this work.”

Mike Smolak, owner Smolak Farms

Initially, Mike was in the early stages of contemplating succession, mainly by examining his business and also by testing whether anyone in his family was interested and capable of being brought on as a successor down the road. Land For Good helped Mike set the overall planning approach and ask the right questions. A decade later, mid-stage planning required a few course corrections due to both family and business events. Land For Good supported Mike’s exploration of options. Recently, Mike’s sense of urgency around his transition has increased. His history with Land For Good made revisiting his plan and engaging his advisor team smooth. We were able to step back in with a solid understanding of Mike and his farm. Mike is now actively seeking a successor or manager to potentially lease and/or purchase the business.

Smolak Farms’ business model drew many people to the farm over recent years with pick-your-own varieties, educational programs, school tours, plus an extensive activities program. Smolak Farms added a farm stand, bakery, and ice cream stand. They host weddings and farm-to-table dinners throughout the summer. They have become a recognized leader in the farming community for innovation and creative business development.

Recipient of the 2022 Lifetime Preservation Award by the North Andover Historical Society, Mike was honored for his exemplary commitment to the preservation of the town’s historic heritage and open spaces. Mike has great knowledge of New England agriculture with a deep interest in farm transition. Mike served on the Massachusetts state Farm Service Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture boards. Mike also served on Land For Good’s board of directors from 2006 – 2016.

“If you’re worried about where your food comes from, and the future of our food system, then the work that Land For Good does is critical. They take the best and most innovative approach to a problem that isn’t that apparent – the enormous transition of farmland that is happening in this country. If you want that land to stay in farming, Land For Good is the best organization to help ensure that goal.”


How agricultural lands transfer from one owner to another will impact our local food system. Farmers aged 65 and older operate 30% of New England’s farms and will likely exit farming over the next 10+ years. Older farmers need help to navigate the complex process of choosing the right succession strategy and finding a suitable successor, as well as technical assistance on specific aspects of farm succession and transfer. At no point is a farm’s future more at risk than during a transition. Smolak Farms obtained an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) in 1983 preserving over 100 acres. 

As we look back and reflect on two decades of service, we’re proud to be at the forefront of changing the way land is accessed, held, and transferred to future farmers across the country. 

And we look forward to helping more farmers like Mike navigate the farm transfer process.

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