Farm succession is still a tough subject in the farming community. It’s a topic gathering headlines and is constantly being talked about in the community, and yet it is still a hard one for today’s farmers to take action on.
In the 2016 Census of Agriculture, Statistics Canada asked for the first time whether or not a succession plan was in place for the farm. Nationally only 8.4% of farms reported having a written succession plan, while in Ontario only 8.5% had a plan. That same census counted 49,000 farms in Ontario, meaning less than 4200 have a formal plan in place about how they want their legacy protected.
We know change can be hard and planning for the succession of your farm is one of the most challenging things farmers need to consider. We specialize in working with farm families across Ontario to have those courageous conversations with their families. We facilitate and empower farm families through our process in a way that strives to protect the family harmony.
At Farm Life, we work with our clients existing team of professionals to quarterback the succession planning of their family farm. We educate our farm families and motivate the next generation of farmers.
Our process is simple. We keep the family first, always. We take the time to really understand the family; the vision, the goals, the history and each individual’s interest in the farm and the direction of its future. We get to know each individual stakeholders interest, the dynamics of the family and each generation’s perspective. Through family and individual meetings, we figure out how these perspectives translate into the vision and legacy of the farm for generations to come.
Next, we develop themes with stakeholder voices that create a transition roadmap. We work with the client’s current professional team and share our findings. We also provide oversight on tax and estate planning. Farm Life has an independent farm tax and estate planning specialist who offers a second, unbiased opinion that has resulted in significant savings for our clients.
We then quarterback the agreement process with professionals and keep both the family and the professional team accountable to agreed upon deadlines. When our plan is complete, it encompasses a broad perspective rather than an industry specific approach. Our plan speaks the voice of the business; it does what is best for the family harmony of the farm for generations to come
Business Analysis and Financial Assessment
Farmers who are not yet ready to proceed with a succession plan sometimes first request or require a business analysis and financial assessment. The size of our farms is bigger than ever before and many are successful business operations.
Farm Life offers full business analysis to our clients on their farming operations. Our work includes consultations with the operator and the farms decision makers. We review past records, the current situation, discuss objectives, and help producers determine their current options in meeting their profitability goals. Our services are broader than tax efficiency or corporate structure, they include all aspects of what a successful farming operation looks like from an operations perspective and could include diversification, marketing, human resources, expansion, risk management or succession.
A succession plan could not be considered effective without the input of your family, including the views of your successor. Farm Life specializes in leading families through the succession process by having courageous conversations about the future of the farm. In addition to all our advisors having both CAFA certifications and agricultural experience, our founder is a certified Family Enterprise Advisor, making us a leader in Ontario in successfully transitioning family farms in a harmonious way.
Our process protects the family relationships and allows us to facilitate open conversations, both individual and between family members, to develop a plan that considers the views of farming and non-farming children.
We create an environment that is supportive of constructive conversations and where all family members are heard and understood. Our advisors work closely to facilitate a shared and agreed upon vision.
The core value of Farm Life is family and we pride ourselves on putting family first during the succession process.
A common misconception made is people who make a will and think they have an estate plan. A will is perhaps the most important singular document needed but it is a part of a larger plan required to properly prepare your estate.
At Farm Life, we work with our clients to ensure their affairs are in order during our estate planning process, including corporate structures and agreements, powers of attorneys and financial strategies that provide the greatest level of financial security while reducing the tax burden on yourself and your family.
It is also during this phase of the process where our conversations focus on what is fair versus equal. We help your family in these conversations about why an estate is compiled the way it is and help non-farming children understand the sweat equity factor and others that have been invested in the farm business.
Although the lifestyle of a farmer is to never retire, there usually comes a time where your day to day involvement on the farm decreases and funds are required to support your lifestyle and pay your bills.
Through the succession process, we work with your family to develop a financial plan that will support your lifestyle and balance the needs, wants and the reality of your finances.
We work with your existing team of professionals to ensure there are sufficient financial resources to maintain your lifestyle and get your family to the finish line while being sustainable for the next generation to grow and prosper with their vision for the family farm.
Transitioning the farm is more than writing the plan and committing to the direction of the farm, its about putting a plan in place today that supports the transition for a successful future. There is no standard way to transition a farm but there are tools and processes to put in place to support an effective changeover.
We work with your family to build out roles and responsibilities, compensation, clarifying the timing of the transition, redemption strategy and changes that need to take place. Our plan will ensure there is a clear schedule with achievable timelines to protect the legacy of the farm.
The most successful transitions are plans that have regular family communication and a pathway for this communication to continue for generations to come. Good governance and policies outline how families can continue to have regular family meetings and develop tools for success including Codes of Conduct and Family Charters.
Farm Life works with your family to develop sets of standards for your family to live by as it continues to farm and protect the family’s farming legacy for generations to come.