Navigating Change

A major change is transitioning the farm business to the next generation.Farm businesses and organizations should set aside time periodically to consider what’s working well and what might need to be changed.  As one looks at navigating change, they should consider:  preserve, change, and create.

Dairy & Livestock Agent Tina Kohlman has been participating in the National Extension Leadership Development (NELD) program the past nine months, learning and developing leadership skills that can be used within the office team and with farm families.  The most recent NELD session focused on Navigating Change:  Understanding Change & Identifying Strategies.

There is nothing more constant than change, and that is seen every day with farm families regarding weather, milk production, nutrition, markets, etc.  One major change is the transition of the farm business to the next generation.  Farm succession from one generation to the next can be overwhelming for families when added to the daily decisions necessary to run the farm. Tina has used many of the skills learned through the most recent NELD session to help families navigate through the process utilizing:  preserve, change, and create.  Currently working with four Fond du Lac County farm families, Tina helps them:

  • to review the history of the farm and identify the farm business and farm family’s goals for the future
  • identify ways to bring in the next generation to meet both the business and personal goals of both owner and successor generations
  • create a plan to implement the farm succession through service of various consultants.

The process involves individual meetings with the transitioning and retiring farmers, as well as a meeting with both.  Meetings are facilitated to help individuals develop their personal and business goals, both long term and short term.  Based on the goals developed, guidance is provided to the families on how to best achieve those goals while maintaining positive and open communication.

With the aging population, farm succession planning and coaching farm families through the process will continue to be a major programming effort for Tina. To help better serve farm families going through farm succession, Tina is currently on a workgroup to develop a teaching module for agents to use, and a workbook for farm families to utilize as they begin writing down their goals, information, and tasks to complete.  A “Managing Succession Planning” program will be piloted in Fond du Lac County this winter.

*Tina’s year- long NELD training will conclude with Session 4-Minneapolis, September 2017.  All expenses for this training is provided by UW-Extension Dean’s Office.

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