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At some point in our lives we are asked the question “Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?” For some it’s easy to answer and for other’s it takes time to think about what the future looks like.

Looking forward can seem intimidating and if you are not sure where to start it can seem like a never-ending task. With a vision of what the future holds for your farm and your family written down it can serve as a guide and goal. This article will briefly touch on a few simple ways you can develop a vision for your farm family and the farm business.

In order to understand your businesses potential, you need to explore what your future potential can be. One of the first questions you should ask yourself is What are you doing in three years? Five years? What does that look like to you?

If you are the owner of the current farm business, you could be looking to retire and pass on the farm. You could be the successor and looking to take over more of the farm. Seeing yourself in that role will help you to communicate with others what your wants and needs are and can lead to conversation on how it can be actualized.

When you have an idea of what you will be doing in the future, write it down and if you have farm meetings bring it with you. This will help to remind you of what your plans are, and keep the conversation going so you don’t lose focus.

A similar line of questioning can be used when looking at the farm business potential. What does your farm look like in three years? In five years? Will you be adding additional acres? It could be that you are looking a different enterprise to add additional income to the business. If you are the owner of the business, you could be looking to transfer some managerial responsibilities to your successor.

Once you have an idea of what you see for the farm business bring everyone who has a vested interest in the farm and make clear what your vision is. This can then lead into a discussion where you all make a vision for the farm together. Make sure it get’s written down somewhere. If it’s not written down, it did not happen.

What happens if your vision for the farm business does not line up with the future that others envision? In a perfect world everyone would agree with each other, sometimes though when it comes to family and business, conflict can happen. Let’s walk through a quick example of a potential conflict.

John (65 years old) and his daughter Rachel (45 years old) own/operate a 250-acre farm with a small heard of angus. Rachel has asked that they sit down as a family and talk about the future of the farm. John eventually agrees and during the conversation he expresses that he would like to keep farming as long as he is able. Rachel does enjoy working with her father and feels that she should be taking more control of the operation in the next few years.

If Rachel takes over does that mean John will have to stop farming? If John continues to run the operation where does Rachel fit in to all it? Rachel has some great ideas for the farm and is looking at possibly expanding the operation. John would rather keep things as they are and not purchase any more land.

There are a few places in the example where John and Rachel have conflict. By sharing their visions of the farm’s future with each other it could help them to see where they are different and where they are similar. That is only one way they can work through their conflict.

A workbook called Cultivating Your Farm Futures was developed through the Division of Extension to dive deeper into topics like developing a vision for your farm business and working through conflict. It also explores where you are now in your business, where you want to be in the future, and how you can accomplish those future goals.

Contact your local Extension Agriculture Educator for more information or you can attend one of the workshops being held throughout the state, information on those workshops can be found at  https://farms.extension.wisc.edu/programs/cultivating/.

Lance is the Agriculture Educator for Extension La Crosse County

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