The last couple of years, my dad has mentioned “retirement” more and more frequently. It usually coincides with a tough day during calving season when he’s dealing with snow, mud and the sleep deprivation that comes with spring.
However, my mom always says, “Calving season is just like child birth. As soon as it’s over, you forget how exhausting it was, and you’re excited to see newborn calves on the ground and start the cycle all over again!”
Needless to say, after Winter Storm Xanto, Dad’s talks of retirement have increased, and he says he’ll be done by the time he turns 60 (in two short years).
While I appreciate the timeline, as it certainly helps Tyler and I prepare monetarily for a transition, I do doubt the validity of these retirement claims.
After all, in one breath, Dad is saying he’ll be done ranching, so he can golf and go to basketball games. In the next breath, he’s saying he might as well keep cows of his own because we’ll just fill his lots and pastures with cattle we own, and then he’ll still have chores!
And that points to a bigger issue altogether. As the older generation retires, are they willing to entirely give up the reins of control? For my dad, who tends to lean toward a micro-management style of operating, that may be difficult. And while I’m not complaining about his attention to details and passion for the business, it does make it tricky to determine when, if and how a transition will take place and how seamless the succession will actually be.
Certainly there are no guarantees in life, and as a millennial producer, I’ve learned that patience, hard work and having additional sources of income for cash flow have been imperative for this chapter in our lives as we build our cattle herd and grow our land and equipment assets while raising small children.
Yet, a concrete timeline with a definite deadline would absolutely help in the process and give all parties involved a true picture of how the business will transition and when.
Elaine Froese is a Canadian farmer, professional speaker and personal coach to agricultural families, who recently discussed this topic from the vantage point of the retiring producer.
In a recent blog post titled, “Downsizing the farm: The help you need for moving,” Froese describes how she is preparing for retirement by the year 2020 and the steps she is taking to make it a smooth transition for her son and daughter-in-law as they take over the operation.
She lists five steps she’s following to prepare for this transition, including:
1. Get started by focusing on the farm piece
2. List out the many things you want to accomplish
3. Know your social service network
4. Have realistic expectations
5. Get another perspective on your stuff
In detailing these steps, Froese writes, “The number 2020 stares at me from the flip chart paper on my kitchen wall. This farm coach is being coached to set timelines for moving off our farm yard to make room for our successor to live on the main yard. I have four harvests left to get things chucked, sorted, and packed for a new home. Sounds daunting to some, to others, it is a great relief to have a target date to make changes.”
So what is a realistic timeline? Do you have a retirement date in mind? If so, what steps need to be accomplished for this timeline to be met? From meeting with a lawyer to discuss the operation and how it might be purchased or passed down to the kids to boxing up old things in preparation for a move to town to make room for the next generation to live on the ranch, there are big jobs to tackle.
Start early to avoid getting overwhelmed and communicate clearly with the next generation what your true intentions might be. If, like my dad, you talk of retirement but plan to be feeding hay until you have one foot in the grave, then be honest about that intention.
Whether you plan to retire and golf or you want to continue to work until your funeral date is set on the calendar, these are conversations that need to be had. Tough or not, this topic can’t be avoided in order for the family agricultural enterprise to continue on.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.