ARRANGING a successful handover of the family farm to the next generation will be the subject of a workshop to be held in Ongerup on June 8.
Ellie Stone, whose family grows wheat, canola, barley, lupins, and merino and cross-bred sheep at Boxwood Hill, says succession planning regularly comes up in conversation in regional areas.
“Many family farming businesses have completely different structures to one another, but a lot of the issues remain the same – what’s going to happen in the future, when will it be my turn to take on the farm, how do I keep Dad happy, how do we keep the lines of communication open?,” she says.
“I think that marrying into a farm business, it can be quite hard coming into a family that has its own way of communication, and finding your place in the farming business.”
Ms Stone, who is president of the Ongerup branch of Women in Farming Enterprise – better known by its acronym, ‘WIFE’ – says there is no one-size-fits-all solution to farm succession.
“But I think the core values of how to communicate better and how to approach things, and how important planning for the future is, always stay the same across the board,” she says.
“We’ve got four sons, aged four, eight, and the twins are five, and they’re already mad-keen farmers.
“So, for my family, we’re looking for the future of how we can set ourselves up for our sons’ opportunities to work on the farm if they wish to, or in other avenues if they choose.”
WIFE will run a workshop on farm succession at Ongerup Sporting Complex from 9am to 2.30pm on June 8.
All comers, including blokes, are welcome to attend.
Farmer-cum-accountant Ben Thompson, from Ironbridge Group, and Michael Pyne from HPH Solutions, will talk on the day.
“I suspect a lot of the younger generations who potentially married in to farming families will participate on the day,” Mr Thompson says.
“A lot of the farmers who started farming in the ‘60s and ‘70s are now starting to get to the point of retiring and there is a big difference between that generation of farmers and these ones.
“The younger generations want to know what’s happening and how things are going to be structured, whereas you only have to step back a generation and it was pretty much: ‘You do what you’re told and you don’t ask questions, and we’ll tell you when it’s time to be told’.”
He says that especially when a farming enterprise is carrying a lot of debt, securing a comfortable life for retiring farmers and security for their families while ensuring the future viability of the farm is a challenge.
He says a particular concern for women is securing a future for their off-farm children.
“A lot of them are used to a huge proportion of assets ending up with a son coming home to the farm, and the off-farm children being left with not much,” he explains.
“I think a lot of women want to ensure there is a balance, that it’s not all about the farm and the pressure that comes with that.
“It can’t always be equitable – otherwise, in many cases, you’d have to sell the farm – but I think it can be fair.”
WIFE members can attend the workshop for $15, and non-WIFE members for $25.
RSVPs to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 1.