Having a plan in place for the end of your farming career or for the next generation to come in is often far easier said than done.
However, not communicating your intentions, whatever your plan, might be the greatest sin in what, for many, is the incredibly thorny issue of succession.
As the NFU Mutual figures suggest, there are very few farmers who actually intend to step away fully from the farm and properly retire. And while those around them might want them to slow down, it is their own personal choice which will dictate what they do next.
With farming businesses often being multi-generational entities and it being an industry, almost like no other, in which people’s perceptions of themselves are defined by the job they do, the two often combine to make it an emotional wrench to step away from the business, let alone discuss the next steps.
But as business adviser Heather Wildman rightly points out, using the excuse that farming is somehow different from other businesses, and therefore ignoring the succession debate, is inexcusable.
It also seems odd we ruefully smile at businesses in which the ‘younger generation’, often already into their late 40s or even 50s, do not have access to the chequebook or credit card. Cases such as this should be called out for the dysfunctionality they represent.
How people choose to end their careers or move towards a less hands-on role within a farm business is for them to decide, but being honest about what they want to do lets those around them plan accordingly.
While some families or farm business teams may well be able to talk dispassionately about the need to move the business on and for people’s roles to change, for others it may be far more emotionally charged. But it does not mean it should be ignored.
Making plans for the end of a career or for worst case scenarios, such as unexpected illness, are not signs of weakness. Rather they are sensible steps which might ultimately protect you, the next generation and the long-term future of the business.