How multi-generational farms keep success in the family

Ferme Drapeau & Bélanger dairy, 3rd generation farm

Highlights

  • Navigating family dynamics often requires careful consideration and planning to work well
  • Keep open lines of communication and schedule regular time to discuss issues
  • Establish clear partnerships with written agreements

Passing down the farm from generation to generation has been a tried and true business model for many farm families. But, navigating family dynamics often requires careful consideration and planning to work well.

In our special edition of AgriSuccess, celebrating 150 years of agriculture, we asked three multi-generational families for their secrets for success. Here’s how they make their family business work, along with our top succession planning picks.

Create open lines of communication

 “I think having good communication is the secret to being able to run a successful business for generation after generation. My sisters and I have an excellent relationship. We’re friends inside and outside of the business. But, the first Tuesday of every month, we sit down and have a sister meeting. The four of us talk about the issues we’re facing in the business and we talk about family dynamics, too. That way, if one of us is having challenges with each other or another family member, it can be brought out and dealt with before they can cause a major problem.”

Debbi Conzelmann, King Cole Ducks, 4th generation farm

FCC pick : Overcoming challenges in succession planning

Build for the future

“When my grandfather and parents were building this farm, they were building it with future generations in mind. For three generations now, we’ve been willing to gift shares in the operation from one generation to the next instead of selling them. In return, there’s a covenant to look after the older generation when they retire.”

Dominic Drapeau, Ferme Drapeau & Bélanger dairy, 3rd generation farm

FCC pick: Is the next generation ready to take over the farm?

Establish clear partnerships

“We all have a share in the profits and all share the risk. There’s a lot of give and take on everyone’s part. If someone feels strongly about moving in a certain direction, for the most part the others will go along with it. We do have a written agreement on how to handle disputes and resolve differences if we can’t agree, but so far it’s never been an issue. We’re very confident we’ll be able to work together and face the future as a team.”

Dale Sunderland, Sunderland Hog Farm, 5th generation farm

FCC pick: How formal agreements can save farm families