Transitioning the Farm From One Generation to the Next

Farm transition planning is a very important conversation that must eventually take place for farm families. As the average age of farmers increases, the need for new generations to take over the farm grows. Transitioning farms is important to ensuring that we can continue to have farmers in agriculture here in Wisconsin.

Mark Schmitz works for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection as a Financial Consultant and Farm Transition Specialist. His specialty is working with farm families who are looking to pass their farm to either the next generation or a new farmer who is looking to get into agriculture.

The services that Schmitz provides have been offered since the Wisconsin Farm Center was created by DATCP in the 80’s. These services are provided free of charge for any farm family interested in taking advantage of them.

In his role, Schmitz will walk farm families through transition conversations. Those conversations revolve around financial planning and long-term goals. “Sometimes it’s nice to have a disinterested third party there to give their opinion on some of the thoughts and ideas the farmers are considering,” said Schmitz.

Open and honest communication is essential for this process to work well Schmitz shares. Schmitz says that “having clear lines of communication is one of the things we can help with the most.” That should include discussing what each party needs to live comfortably on and if they need to make changes to the operation.

Most of the families Schmitz work with are looking to pass the farm directly from one generation to the next. Oftentimes, farmers are looking to transition the farm to one heir and their spouse. Sometimes the goal is to transition the farm to multiple siblings. “Every situation is different…I really try to focus on the people involved and not the farm itself,” Schmitz states.