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“You might say it gives a perspective of the operation from a distance of 30,000 feet, as opposed to a view from 10 feet away,” says Marrison.A whole-farm plan addresses a broad spectrum of components, such as family values and goals, a business analysis and business goals, a business plan, retirement plan, transition plan, estate plan, and investment plan.“Farm estate planning determines how your farm’s assets will be distributed upon the death of the principal operators,” he says.
“Retirement plans should be established early for all members of the business,” says Marrison.
“The profitability of your farm should be such that a family member can retire and not adversely affect the financial position of the business.” This describes how your farm will be transferred to the next generation.
“Having a whole-farm business plan in place helps you stay true to your vision and the mission of the operation,” he says.
“It helps you stay on course and not get lost in the weeds of not having a plan, especially when you’re facing big stressors like crop failures or tractor engines going down.” A whole-farm plan encompasses the breadth and width of your farm family’s business.
Or, it could suggest a need for additional education or training.
“You should always be looking at ways to help family members and employees improve their skills and strengths,” says Marrison.Marrison suggests taking the following 11 steps to write a whole-farm plan.Look at the history of your family and its farm, and identify family values and family goals.“It is valuable for the business to begin the planning process by reflecting on family and farm history,” he says.“Valuable lessons can be learned by all the generations involved by examining past successes and disappointments.The underlying values and goals of the family unit should also be determined.While these values and goals often remain unspoken, they have a large impact on how family members treat each other and employees, and how they make business decisions.” “Each member of the farm business should conduct a self-assessment of his or her communication, financial, production, marketing, and management skills,” says Marrison.A business analysis takes stock of available land, labor, capital, management resources, profitability, business structure, operating procedures, and employee management.“After taking a snapshot of where the farm business is currently, the family business team should develop key goals for the future,” says Marrison.At monthly family meetings, you can look back at the goals you set in each major area of planning.Reviewing goals keeps them in focus, even though you might not be able to act on them until a future date.” In each planning area, work into the plan a what-if scenario.