Problem and Justification: To sustain New England’s agriculture, over 10,000 aging farmers must successfully transition their farms to a successor, whether family or unrelated, in the next decade. Thirty percent of operators are over 65; far too few have adequate succession plans. Most farmers want and need help to pass on their farms and exit securely from active farming. Without adequate information and support, many farms will cease, further reducing the opportunities for next-generation operators to acquire farmland or viable farm business opportunities.
Succession planning resources and educational events for farmers are widely available. However, training and networking for attorneys, financial experts and other farm service providers (SP) are scarce. As a regional leader on succession planning assistance, Land For Good (LFG) believes that educating farmers is not sufficient. Farmers need skilled and knowledgeable professionals to help them complete succession plans. SP indicate need for additional guidance and expertise to better assist transitioning farmers.
Solution and Approach: Farm succession planning is a complex, multi-component process. This is best approached with a coordinated team of professionals that includes an attorney, financial expert and other SP as needed. This project will strengthen the knowledge, skills and collaboration of a diverse group of professionals in New England who are currently – or would like to be – advising and guiding farmers in succession planning.
LFG will build on our twelve-year track record of professional training and network-building around succession planning – and our “team approach.” Our training methodology reflects our field-based understanding of what farmers and SP need. We will deliver an intensive 2-day, regional technical training to attorneys and financial experts (AFE) who have or desire specialties in farm succession. Next, we will conduct a training in each of the six New England states for SP who play other succession advising and support roles in that state. These trainees will include Extension staff, non-profit agriculture service providers, farm link and land trust staff, tax accountants, mediators and private consultants. They will learn basic and technical material, and build “soft issues” awareness and “soft” skills. They will learn how to effectively support a farm succession planning process using a “team approach.” To apply training knowledge and skills – and to strengthen service relationships – trainees will receive six months of on-call mentoring from the Project Team (PT) and participate in three conference calls per state, coordinated by LFG’s staff. This will result in the coordinated support that is necessary for farmers to complete their succession plan.
Performance targets from proposal:
80 service providers who participate in the project’s training opportunities will deliver improved and effective succession planning technical assistance and support to at least 320 transitioning farmers in New England.