Planning for the future of your farm is in the too-hard basket for many farmers, reckons Hauraki Coromandel Federated Farmers president Kevin Robinson.
He says it’s not at all unusual for parents and their adult children to have different expectations about what will happen with the family property when parents retire, and it can end badly for all concerned.
“The worst thing that can happen is that families fall out. People leave on bad terms and that relationship is very difficult to repair.”
As a result, it’s important to get a succession plan sorted now, rather than putting it off, says Kevin.
“Many people leave it too late. Be proactive. If you want to move onto the family farm, start the conversation now. If you’re expecting your children to take over the property, get talking.”
Getting professional advisers – accountants, bankers, farm advisers – involved is very important, says Kevin, which is exactly what he and his wife did when making arrangements to take over the family property years ago.
Documenting things in a formal sense makes sure that everyone is on the same page and helps develop a shared understanding about what needs to happen to make the dream of farm ownership a reality, he says.
“Even if you can’t come to an agreement, at least you’ve had the conversation. Both parties know where they stand, and can set about making other plans if the gap between expectations can’t be bridged.”
Passing farms from parents to child isn’t the only pathway to farm ownership. Kevin reckons there are still plenty of opportunities for those with a good work ethic to own their own farm.
“It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, taking advantage of the opportunities in front if you is the key to success.
“Farmers recognise skill and talent, and that’s when opportunities arise. People showing promise get plucked up, and can move forward quickly if they’re willing to work hard.
“Lots of people say the dairy industry isn’t in a good place at the moment. But the industry has faced challenges before and come through them. The reality is that every industry has its ups and downs. “There are always opportunities for those willing to work hard.”
With around 34,000 Kiwis employed on-farm in 2018/2019, and another 12,000 employed in processing and wholesaling, the dairy industry remains the employer of choice for tens of thousands of New Zealanders.