Our farms and ranches throughout the West will see a huge generational shift in the coming decade. U.S. farmland is overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of older farmers: nearly two-thirds of farmland is currently managed by someone over 55.
Transitioning farmland, and a business, is no easy task. The stories we all too often hear are about the loss of farms. But there are farmers and ranchers who have found creative ways to pass their legacies to the next generation. And there are programs designed to help farmers with succession and business planning. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned and a wealth of inspiration from those who have carved this path.
Throughout 2019, the Changing Hands story series is sharing the inspirational stories of farmland transition in the Capital Press - the west’s most prominent agricultural publication - both online and in print.
You’ll learn how farmers and ranchers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and California passed their legacies to family members and non-family members and meet skilled aspiring farmers and ranchers who are ready and able to take over a business. We also feature a variety of tools that help with transitions like working lands easements, conservation incentives, creative business structures and experiences with succession planners.
Stories so far include:
- A Full Root Cellar, Hard Earned: Wild Hare Organic Farm: In 2017, Mark and Katie Green purchased a 21-acre farm just outside of Tacoma, Washington from local sustainable farming leaders, Dick and Terry Carkner—and the deal they struck ensured it will stay a farm forever.
- Farming Better Through Partnership: McClelland Dairy: Jana McClelland is partnering with her parents, George and Dora, setting her up to take over the family dairy farm in the future. Learn how this Organic Valley farm is continually refining their practices to care for the land and receiving conservation funding to do it.
- Taking the Long View: B4 Sunrise Farm Transfer: “In 2014, my son Andy called me and said, ‘I want to come home and farm,’” says Dave Baldus. For Dave, it was essential that Andy kept his day job until they had a plan. Since that pivotal phone call, the Balduses have embraced one-on-one transition planning sessions, learned to communicate better as a family, and created a working partnership to set up B4 Sunrise for the future.
- A New Track For Harper Farms: “It’s the ultimate compliment to have your child take over the family farm,” says Warren Harper, of Harper Farms in Junction City, Oregon, the heart of the Willamette Valley. Bryan Harper has done just that—he’s stepped up to be the fifth generation at the helm of the family’s 1200-acre Harper Farms. Learn how the Harper’s worked with a succession planner to pass along the farm.
- A Dairy Thrives through the Next Generation: “When it comes to transferring a farm to the next generation, success is temporary, but failure is permanent,” says Ryan McCarthey of Dungeness Creamery. Their ongoing success is the result of a creative shift in their business model, a cash infusion from selling the property’s development rights, training, and a little bit of fate.
- Creating A Legacy In Land: Crown Hill Enterprises: A non-family farm transfer benefits from succession planning and a conservation easement.
Stay tuned for more stories throughout the year! You’ll find them all on our Changing Hands web page.
If you are seeking farmland, transferring farmland, or conserving farmland in California, Idaho, Oregon, or Washington, see Rogue Farm Corps’ Changing Hands resources page.
And if you have a story you’d like to share, or questions about the resources, please get in touch: email@example.com.