Farm transition on the minds of OFA members

By Teresa Van Raay, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

OPINION – A recent survey of Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) members showed that 91 per cent of respondents are having conversations about the future of their family farms. But none of them have a written transition plan to safeguard their farm and family. The results are startling, but align with the 2016 Census of Agriculture that indicated less than 10 per cent of Canadian farmers felt they had a written plan for their farm.

The good news is Ontario’s agricultural industry recognizes the challenges that come with farm succession and conversations around transition. A recent Farm Credit Canada Ignite event focused on farm transition and how to work with young farmers interested in entering agriculture and starting their own farms. OFA was overwhelmed with the success of a series of transition planning workshops and webinars hosted earlier in 2019. And based on an OFA member survey – and conversations directors and field staff regularly have with members – we know there is a need and willingness for farm families to have these often-challenging conversations and begin making plans for future succession.

To help get succession conversations started, OFA is continuing to partner with Farm Life and Scotiabank to offer a series of farm transition planning workshops across the province. These workshops will be hosted over the winter months and into the spring of 2020. OFA will also be offering a farm transition webinar in partnership with Farm Life in January 2020. Watch for event details.

OFA members can also access farm transition planning services with Farm Life through the Benefit Program for a team of professional experts to help build a succession plan for Ontario family farms. Through the transition planning process, Farm Life provides financial assessment, business planning, financial sustainability and a succession plan that protects both the family harmony and the legacy of the farm.

It takes a lot of work and tough conversations to build a successful farm transition plan. We recognize the difficulty of these conversations and understand every farm family and farm business is different, but the important aspect to remember is that it’s never too early to start thinking about this process. Even if it means starting and restarting the process multiple times. Keeping the conversation going among farm family members is what’s most important. OFA will continue to provide resources and tools for members to help Ontario farm families maintain their legacy and rural roots.