Extension Line

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I was asked recently to define "economic development". The assignment sounded easy enough until I put pencil to paper to give a response. I believe the program described below is part of Iowa State University Extension's effort to impact the long-term economic development of northwest Iowa.

A family business, whether a dairy farm or a main street business, represents a lifetime of hard work and a commitment to a certain lifestyle that often spans generations, says Beginning Farmer Center farm transition specialist David Baker. Good communications and planning make the transition from one generation to the next move smoothly and more successfully, according to Baker.

"Successfully transferring a farm business, or any business for that matter, begins with conversations about goals -- the goals of all parties involved," said Baker. "The current owner and spouse as well as future owner and spouse need to be included in the conversations. These talks are often hard to initiate, but they are vital to creating an understanding that can be the basis for a succession plan."

Personally, I hear people express their concerns about the future and about parents or children not knowing what the other plans to do or when. Even in my own family, I hear the need to involve multiple generations to decide how the farm business will be passed to remain in the family. These conversations between generations need to happen sooner than later to keep younger families in our area. That is why we are bringing Iowa State University transitioning experts to northwest Iowa.

The workshops are planned as a multi-generational event for exiting owners and spouse, and succeeding owners and spouse. The two-session workshops will be held on consecutive days to allow for the initiation of conversations and written plans. David Baker and John R. Baker, Beginning Farmer Center Administrator and Attorney at Law, will present the workshops. Workshops are scheduled for Jan. 28-29 in Storm Lake, Feb. 4-5 in LeMars and March 2-3 in Sheldon.

Over the two days, participants will review the retirement plan concept and receive information on transfer plans, estate plans and a process for creating a family statement of intent. Family groups will be given time to write a statement of intent and vision of the future. Families will go home with a blueprint to the future -- knowing what they need to do, who they need to talk to, and understanding that the plan may need to be adjusted along the way to make the transition work.

The Buena Vista County Extension office will be the location of the Jan. 28-29 workshop that will be held Friday 1-8 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The LeMars Convention Center is the location of the Feb. 4-5 workshop that will be held Friday 1 -- 8 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The March 2-3 workshop will be held at the Northwest Iowa Community College, Building A, 603 West Park Street. The Sheldon workshop will be held on Wednesday 1 -- 8 p.m. and Thursday 1 -- 5 p.m.

The cost of the workshop is $150 per family of four; $25 per each additional person. Pre-registration can be made by contacting one of the hosting county extension offices -- Buena Vista County, 712-732-5056, xbuenavista@iastate.edu; Plymouth County, 712-546-7835, xplymouth@iastate.edu; or Sioux County, 712-737-4230, xsioux@iastate.edu.

This program is obviously important to the individual families involved, but also important to the economic future of our region.