Seeds To Successors:

Your Guide to Passing on The Family Farm

This guide is an essential resource for those navigating the complexities of farm succession. This guide offers practical advice, strategies, and real-life case studies to assist landowners in transferring their agricultural legacy to the next generation.

Seedlings to Successors: Your Guide to Passing On the Family Farm


In the heartland of our nation lies the essence of a legacy that extends far beyond the tangible yields of the soil. This is the legacy of our farms, a heritage rich with history, resilience, and an unwavering connection to the land. The preservation of these farm legacies is not merely a matter of sentimentality; it is crucial for the continuity of our agricultural heritage, the sustainability of rural communities, and the stewardship of the land that feeds us.

At the core of this preservation lies the intricate process of farm succession – the transition of land, knowledge, and traditions from one generation to the next. This journey is fraught with challenges and ripe with opportunities. The landscape of agriculture is ever-changing, influenced by technological advancements, economic shifts, environmental factors, and societal trends. These variables introduce complexities in maintaining the viability of the farm while honoring the legacy of the past.

The challenge of succession is multifaceted. It involves not only the transfer of land and assets but also the imparting of wisdom, values, and the essence of a family’s connection to their land. It’s about navigating the delicate balance between tradition and innovation, honoring the past while adapting to the future. The opportunity, however, is profound. Succession is a chance to rejuvenate the farm with new ideas and energy, to ensure its continued relevance and success in a rapidly evolving world.

Consider the story of the Thompson family, who have been stewards of their land in Nebraska for over four generations. The patriarch, George Thompson, inherited the farm from his father, as had been the tradition in their family. However, George faced a dilemma when his son, Michael, expressed a desire to integrate more sustainable farming practices and diversify their crops. Initially resistant to change, George worried that these new methods would veer too far from the tried-and-true practices passed down through generations.

After much discussion and research, George began to see the value in Michael’s vision. Together, they embarked on a journey of transformation, adopting sustainable methods that not only preserved the soil’s health but also increased their farm’s profitability. This successful transition was a testament to the power of embracing new ideas while staying rooted in the rich soil of tradition. It exemplified how the challenges of succession, when approached with an open mind and heart, could lead to a thriving legacy.

As we delve into this guide, remember that every farm has a unique story, a distinct rhythm that resonates from generations past. Our goal is to help you navigate the complex path of farm succession, to provide you with the knowledge, tools, and insights needed to preserve your farm’s legacy. Whether you’re a seasoned farmer preparing to pass the torch, a new landowner looking to continue a legacy, or a young farmer eager to start your own, this guide is for you. 

Together, let’s ensure your legacy endures for generations to come.


In the ever-evolving world of production agriculture, farmers and landowners face a myriad of challenges that test the resilience and adaptability of their operations. This chapter delves into these critical issues, exploring their implications and proposing strategies to navigate through them.

Current Challenges in Production Agriculture

Weather Volatility: The most pressing challenge in modern agriculture is the weather. Weather patterns are far-reaching, affecting crop yields and pest cycles. Unpredictable weather events, such as droughts, floods, and extreme temperatures, have become more frequent, posing significant risks to crop production and livestock management.

Market Volatility: Agricultural markets are notoriously volatile, subject to fluctuations in global demand, supply chain disruptions, and economic trends. This volatility can result in uncertain income for farmers, making financial planning and investment in farm improvements a complex task.

Technological Advancements: While technological advancements offer solutions, they also bring challenges. The rapid pace of innovation can be overwhelming, requiring significant investment and a steep learning curve for farmers to stay competitive.

Environmental Concerns: The environmental impact of farming practices, such as soil degradation, water scarcity, and biodiversity loss, has become a crucial concern. There is increasing pressure to adopt sustainable practices that minimize environmental footprints.

Impact on Family Farms and the Broader Community

Family farms, often operating with limited resources, are particularly vulnerable to these challenges. The stresses of dealing with unpredictable climate and market conditions can strain financial resources and mental well-being. Additionally, the broader rural community faces economic and social impacts as local agriculture struggles.

Strategies for Resilience and Sustainability

Adopting Climate-Smart Practices: Embracing climate-smart agricultural practices is vital. This includes techniques like crop diversification, conservation tillage, and efficient water management to increase resilience against climate extremes.

Financial Risk Management: Diversifying income sources, exploring alternative markets, and leveraging financial tools such as crop insurance can buffer against market volatility.

Technological Integration: Selective adoption of technology, tailored to the specific needs and capacities of the farm, can enhance efficiency and productivity. It’s important to balance technological investments with practical applicability.

Sustainable Farming Methods: Implementing sustainable farming methods not only addresses environmental concerns but also ensures long-term viability. Regenerative farming practices, integrated pest management, and agroforestry are examples.

Community Engagement and Support Networks: Building strong community networks and engaging in cooperative initiatives can provide shared resources, knowledge exchange, and emotional support.

In conclusion, while the challenges in production agriculture are daunting, they are not insurmountable. By understanding these issues and implementing strategic responses, family farms can navigate these turbulent times. This chapter aims to empower farmers with knowledge and tools to build resilient, sustainable, and profitable agricultural practices, ensuring the longevity of their cherished farm legacies.


The journey of farming is more than just cultivating the land; it’s about cultivating a legacy. Defining your farm legacy goals is crucial in ensuring that your vision for the farm’s future becomes a reality. This chapter focuses on the importance of setting clear, achievable goals, provides exercises to articulate your vision, and discusses aligning farming practices with these legacy goals.

Importance of Setting Clear, Achievable Goals

Legacy Beyond Profits: Your farm’s legacy encompasses more than its financial success; it includes the values, traditions, and impacts on the community and environment. Clear goals help in maintaining this broader perspective.

Guiding Future Decisions: Well-defined goals act as a compass, guiding decisions and operations on the farm. They ensure that every action taken aligns with the long-term vision for the farm.

Facilitating Succession Planning: Clear goals simplify the succession process, providing a roadmap for future generations to follow and uphold the farm’s legacy.

Exercises to Help Articulate Vision for the Farm’s Future

Vision Statement Crafting: Develop a vision statement for your farm. Reflect on what you want your farm to represent in the next 10, 20, or 50 years.

Legacy Brainstorming Session: Conduct a brainstorming session where you list out what legacy means to you. Consider aspects like environmental stewardship, community involvement, and family traditions.

Goal-Setting Workshops: Participate in or conduct workshops focused on goal setting. These can provide tools and frameworks to articulate and refine your vision.

Aligning Farming Practices with Legacy Goals

Sustainable Practices Alignment: If environmental stewardship is part of your legacy goals, align your farming practices accordingly. This could include adopting regenerative farming methods or implementing soil conservation techniques.

Community Engagement Strategies: If your vision includes community involvement, consider practices that engage local communities, like farm-to-table events or educational farm tours.

Technology for Tradition: Embrace technologies that enhance rather than replace traditional practices. For instance, using precision agriculture tools to improve the efficiency of conventional farming methods.

Economic Viability with Values: Ensure that your farm remains economically viable while adhering to your values. This may involve diversifying crops, exploring niche markets, or adopting value-added processes.

Defining your farm legacy goals is a dynamic and deeply personal process. It’s about envisioning the future of your farm and taking deliberate steps to mold that future. By setting clear goals, articulating your vision, and aligning your practices, you can ensure that your farm not only survives but thrives, preserving its legacy for generations to come.


Farm succession planning is a critical step in preserving a farm’s legacy. This chapter provides a comprehensive exploration of the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of farm succession, integrating case studies and addressing legal and financial considerations for a smooth transition.

Who: Identifying the Successor

  • The ‘Who’ involves identifying the right successor to take over the farm. This could be a family member, an existing employee, or a non-family successor.
  • Considerations include the successor’s interest, skills, vision for the farm, and their ability to manage the business and agricultural aspects.
  • Case Study: The Johnson Farm, where a non-family member was chosen as the successor due to their passion and innovative approach to agriculture.

What: Defining the Succession Plan

  • The ‘What’ encompasses the details of the succession plan, including the transfer of assets, labor, management and leadership responsibilities.
  • It involves outlining the operational changes, financial arrangements, and any new roles and responsibilities.
  • Case Study: The Anderson Family Farm, which implemented a phased approach, gradually transferring responsibilities and ownership over several years.

Where: Location and Logistics

  • The ‘Where’ addresses the physical and logistical aspects of the farm, including the location of the land and facilities.
  • It also involves considerations of where the retiring generation will reside post-succession and how the farm will continue to operate.
  • Case Study: Green Valley Farm, where the retiring owners moved to a smaller residence on the property, maintaining a close but non-intrusive presence.

When: Timing the Transition

  • The ‘When’ focuses on the timing of the succession. It’s crucial to choose an appropriate time for both the retiring and incoming generations.
  • Factors include the readiness of the successor, the financial health of the farm, and personal circumstances of the current owner.
  • Case Study: Meadowbrook Farm, where the succession was triggered by the owner’s health concerns, prompting an earlier-than-planned transition.

Why: Understanding the Purpose

  • The ‘Why’ delves into the reasons behind the succession. This often includes preserving the family legacy, ensuring the farm’s future, or adapting to changing circumstances.
  • A clear understanding of the ‘Why’ aligns all parties involved and provides a sense of purpose.
  • Case Study: Oakridge Farms, where the succession plan was driven by the desire to innovate and embrace sustainable farming practices.

How: Executing the Plan

  • The ‘How’ details the execution of the succession plan. This includes legal procedures, financial arrangements, and communication strategies.
  • Essential elements include legal agreements, financial planning, and ensuring open lines of communication among all stakeholders.
  • Case Study: Willow Creek Farm, which successfully navigated the complexities of succession through meticulous planning and professional guidance.

Legal and Financial Considerations

  • Addressing the legal and financial aspects is crucial for a smooth transition. This includes estate planning, tax implications, and structuring the transfer.  
  • Seeking professional advice from attorneys, accountants, and succession planners is recommended to navigate these complexities effectively.

In conclusion, understanding the 5 W’s of farm succession is vital for a successful transition. Each element – Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How – plays a crucial role in ensuring the continuity and prosperity of the farm’s legacy. Through careful planning, open communication, and professional guidance, farm owners can pave the way for a smooth and successful succession.



The selection of a farm successor is a pivotal decision that influences the future of the farm and its legacy. This chapter delves into the critical aspects of choosing a successor, whether from within the family or outside, and provides guidance on preparing them for their future role.

Choosing a Successor: Family vs. Non-Family

Family Successors: Often, the first consideration is to pass the farm down to a family member. This choice maintains the farm within the family lineage and upholds traditions. However, it’s essential to assess their interest, skills, and long-term commitment to farming.

Non-Family Successors: Sometimes, a suitable family successor may not be available or interested. In such cases, looking outside the family, such as a trusted employee or a passionate individual with a farming background, can be a viable option.

Case Study: Belly Acres, Inc, who created separate succession plans for their family and non-family successors. The family successors will continue the legacy and ownership of the farmland, but in a structure which assures it will stay together and continue the farming relationship with the non-family successor. The day-to-day farming operations will transition in a separate structure to the non-family successors who share the same passion and philosophies for farming as the retiring generation. 

Considerations for Fairness, Capability, and Willingness

Fairness: When multiple family members are involved, ensuring fairness in the succession process is crucial. This doesn’t always mean equal division of assets; rather, it’s about equitable treatment and clear communication of decisions.

Capability: Assessing the successor’s capability to manage and sustain the farm is vital. This includes their farming knowledge, business acumen, and ability to adapt to future challenges.

Willingness: The successor’s willingness and passion for farming are critical. Their dedication will be a driving force in the farm’s future success.

Advice on Preparing the Successor

Gradual Transition: Gradually involving the successor in decision-making processes and day-to-day operations can ease the transition and build their confidence and skills.

Education and Training: Encouraging formal education in agriculture, business management, or related fields can equip the successor with essential knowledge. Practical, hands-on training on the farm is equally important.

Mentorship and Support: Establishing a mentorship period where the current owner guides the successor can provide invaluable insights and foster a smooth transition.

Financial and Legal Preparedness: Ensuring the successor understands the financial and legal aspects of running the farm is crucial. This may involve training in financial management, understanding of estate laws, and familiarity with agricultural policies.

In conclusion, identifying the right successor is a complex but essential process for ensuring the longevity and prosperity of the farm. It involves careful consideration of family dynamics, the potential successor’s capabilities and desires, and thorough preparation for their future role. By addressing these aspects thoughtfully, farm owners can set the stage for a successful transition that honors the farm’s legacy and paves the way for continued success.



The future of agriculture hinges on effectively connecting the retiring generation of farmers with new landowners and farm producers. This chapter outlines strategies to foster this connection, emphasizing the importance of mentorship, knowledge transfer, and networking.

Strategies for Connecting Retiring Farmers, Inheriting Landowners, and New Producers

Collaborative Platforms: Developing platforms where retiring farmers, new landowners, and aspiring farmers can connect, share experiences, and explore opportunities for collaboration.

Succession Workshops and Seminars: Organizing workshops and seminars focused on farm succession planning, bringing together different generations for learning and discussion.

Local Community Initiatives: Encouraging local agricultural communities to facilitate connections, such as farmer’s markets, local agriculture fairs, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs.

The Role of Mentorship and Knowledge Transfer

Mentorship Programs: Establishing mentorship programs where experienced farmers share their knowledge and skills with the next generation, offering guidance on both practical and business aspects of farming.

Apprenticeships and Internships: Creating opportunities for hands-on learning through apprenticeships and internships on established farms.

Farm Transition Planning Services: Offering services that assist in the structured transfer of knowledge as part of the farm transition process.

Networking and Resources for the Next Generation

Online Communities and Forums: Leveraging online platforms for networking, where new and veteran farmers can exchange ideas, solutions, and experiences.

Educational Resources and Training: Providing access to educational materials, online courses, and training programs in modern farming practices, business management, and sustainability.

Financial and Legal Resources: Guiding the next generation on financial management, funding opportunities, and legal aspects of farm ownership and operation.

In conclusion, connecting the next generation of farmers involves a multi-faceted approach that includes creating opportunities for mentorship and knowledge transfer, fostering community connections, and providing access to essential resources and networks. Through these strategies, the agricultural community can ensure a smooth transition to the next generation, securing the future of farming and preserving the agricultural legacy.


The conclusion of our journey through farm legacy planning emphasizes the profound importance of storytelling in preserving and honoring the essence of your farm’s heritage. Storytelling is not just an act of remembrance; it’s a powerful tool that connects generations, instills values, and keeps the spirit of the land alive.

The Importance of Storytelling in Preserving Farm Legacies

  • Connection to the Past: Your farm’s story creates a bridge between past, present, and future generations, allowing the essence of your family’s farming journey to continue.
  • Inspiration and Learning: Stories inspire and teach. They encapsulate lessons, hardships, successes, and the evolution of your farm over the years.

Tips for Documenting and Sharing Your Farm’s History and Values

  • Record Oral Histories: Encourage the older generation to share stories, anecdotes, and wisdom, recording these treasures for posterity.
  • Create a Farm Journal or Book: Compile a written or digital record of your farm’s history, including significant milestones, changes in farming practices, and personal stories.
  • Utilize Visuals and Media: Photographs, videos, and even social media can be powerful tools for sharing your farm’s story with a broader audience.

Encouragement to Be Proactive in Shaping Your Farm’s Narrative

  • Active Storytelling: Take the initiative to tell your farm’s story in your own words. This can be through community talks, local history groups, or digital platforms.
  • Involve the Next Generation: Encourage younger family members to contribute to and carry on the storytelling tradition.
  • Celebrate Milestones: Use significant anniversaries, harvests, or other milestones as opportunities to share and celebrate your farm’s story.

In essence, your farm’s story is a living narrative, one that grows and evolves with each passing season. It’s a tapestry woven from the threads of hard work, dedication, and a profound connection to the land. By actively documenting and sharing your farm’s history and values, you not only honor your past but also pave the way for future generations to continue this rich legacy. As you close this chapter, remember that your farm’s story is far from over – it’s a continuing saga of resilience, adaptation, and hope.


We at Next Gen Ag deeply understand the emotional weight and complexity of farm succession. The journey is challenging, filled with tough decisions and significant transitions. However, you are not alone in this journey. Next Gen Ag is here to offer support, guidance, and the necessary tools to navigate this path.

We extend an invitation to engage with us, to explore how we can assist in preserving your farm legacy and making your vision for the future a reality. With Next Gen Ag, you have a partner every step of the way, ensuring that your legacy is not just preserved but thrives for generations to come.


Next Gen Ag Advocates was founded in 2018 by two Iowa farmers who shared a concern over what the future of the family farm will look like as more farms transition and who will own and operate our farmland.  

One of the founders was part of the 68% of farmers estimated to not have children who actively farm. After 40 years of farming, he did not have a successor but used a process to find a young farm couple from his community to transition his operation to and work with his children in the next generation who will inherit his farmland. 

Hence, our Century Match ™ matching and mentoring program was born which helps connect young and aspiring farmers to retiring farmers who don’t have a successor. Next Gen Ag is unique in that it assists with both in-family and out-of-family farm transitions. 

We take pride in offering a flexible menu of services customizable for each individual situation. Our fee structure is a simple, flat consulting fee which we communicate once we better understand your specific needs. 

Testimonials and Success Stories

We have a rich history of supporting families through the complex journey of farm succession. Our success stories and testimonials from satisfied clients underscore the impact of our services in preserving farm legacies.

Please learn more about us under the services tab and see our vast sources of information in the resources section. If you’d like to schedule an initial consultation, or receive a copy of our newsletter, please do so here:

Links to Learn More 

  • Company Information:
  • Podcasts:
  • Blog & Resources: Our blog provides insights, tips, and resources for farmers navigating the challenges of succession planning.  Visit:
  • Schedule a Consultation: Contact us to schedule a consultation. Our team is ready to provide personalized guidance tailored to your unique situation