Farm succession: Have something in mind to ‘step back’ into

Stepping back from a farm is one of the most difficult things you can do but there are ways to ease the transition.

Farm business planning facilitator Siân Bushell told attendees at a Women in Dairy event on Wednesday night (May 26) to keep their hobbies and have something to step back into when they quit farming.

The third stage of life

“I’ve often had very difficult conversations where they say, ‘all I wanted to do was farm’,” she said.

“So I do say to young farmers, ‘do not lose your hobbies and interests’. Because the easiest [transitions] are where farmers have had key interests in other things which they have then had the time to go and pursue.

“It’s the third stage of life and we are living longer, healthier, fitter lives and so there are opportunities to do other things.”

But the young ‘uns aren’t quite off the hook in terms of helping with the transition.

“You’ve got to respect mum and dad,” Bushell said.

“It’s a very difficult thing to step from the business – some can’t wait to get out the gate, but most of them find it very difficult to stand back and pass on responsibility – that has to be done sympathetically, but it has to be done.”

One of the best ways to prepare, she explained, is to think about what retirement means to you and what you want to get out of your latter years.

“Retirement means so many different things to different people. Some can’t wait to get out the gate, while others say ‘the only way you’re getting me out of here is in a box!’ So you need to understand that and prepare for that,” she said.

“That may even include running other businesses,” Bushell said. “They may not be physically able to farm anymore but they have still got the abilities and drive to do something else.

“Farmers have a wide range of skills which could easily be transferrable to other businesses. I come across farmers who have retired to another business they think it is easy compared with farming. So perhaps, in the future, that’s what people should think about doing.”