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Bringing the next generation into the family farming business

By Danielle Lannin England

Farming is an inter-generational business. We’re all here for the long-term. Whether it’s within an agricultural company structure or a family farm. We know that our goals are not achievable within a 5-to-10-year period. We are working with complex farming systems – land, water, people, livestock, climate, and crops. All of these things change from year to year, but the goals of the business are long-term.

That’s why when a new generation comes into the business it changes the dynamic for the whole family, and sometimes the business. While you’ve been planning and preparing for a while, when the reality hits that this is more than just the school or university holidays, there can be some adjustments that need to be made.

The goal for most families is for the next generation to take over management of the farm business and this occurs in stages as the experience of the younger generation grows. But for us (yep I’m there too) as the older generation, our roles move slowly over time from one of people manager to coach and then advisor. So, what’s the difference you ask?

As a people manager I am allocating jobs, setting the culture of the team, and ensuring all the key duties are undertaken when they need to be. I take all responsibility for the ins and outs of the business.

Slowly over time I will hand off responsibilities and move into a coaching role. One where I encourage the younger generation to think through the different jobs and provide input when required to guide their direction (and to make sure things stay on track). I’ve still got ‘my hands on the pulse’ of the business but am not responsible for daily or even seasonal duties.  

As an advisor I am there to provide strategic direction into the business. I know that the seasonal activities are happening, and that a profit is being generated. I’m there to advise the next generation on big decisions, like machinery purchases, enterprise changes, and/or property purchases.

While an advisory role seems like an exit from the business of farming – take a time to reflect on what each of these roles play in your current business.

People managers and farm staff are there day in, day-out. They can be valued between $35 - $50/hour. Coaches are people like agronomists and stock agents. They provide seasonal and timely advise, and cost maybe $100/hour. Advisors play critical roles during times of growth and change. These are the accountants, lawyers, and your farm management consultant. These advisors charge more than $200/hour. So naturally, as your skills and knowledge increases, so too does your value to the farm business. But like everyone, in any role, inside or outside farming, your value to the business changes over time, and you require different skills in each of the different roles.  

Embrace the stage you are in, and support those older and younger than you to embrace their stage. Are you learning the business of farming, beginning to manage people and workflows, acting as a coach or advisor.

As you transition between these different roles, take the time to upskill yourself. To surround yourself with people to become the best you can be. We’re all learning as we go, and there are people who will make the journey so much easier for all members of the family.

We work with farming families right across Australia as they navigate intergenerational transfer. Reach out via our website for a complementary coaching session.

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