Farm Transition Is Not Easy

Transitions May Not Be Easy

Darlene Livingston, PA Farm Link Executive Director

Transitions come in all shapes, sizes and for all sorts of reasons: Transition of the family farm to the next generation; a new career opportunity; a required job move; changing from conventional to organic production or one crop to another; when a loved one has passed away.
The transitions we face throughout life are endless. Many are unavoidable and not necessarily our first choice of action. And some create opportunities for the next generation. But even these transitions take work, and both generations usually give up something to accomplish the task.
In our case, my father gave up control of the farm and allowed my family to become the next generation. We gave up life in an area we’d called home for 26 years to move back to the farm. It was not easy for either generation. But with perseverance and many prayers, it was accomplished.
The Positive Approach – Even when change is tough, our attitudes make all the difference. Always be thankful for the opportunity that you may be transitioning from the experiences gained. Most likely, they’ve made you who you are today.
As you look to tomorrow, be hopeful and remain as positive as possible. Work through all the options and opportunities and pick the best one for everyone involved. If the decision affects more than yourself, sit everyone down and discuss your options. Make sure it makes financial sense and is feasible given available resources and assets.
No Other Option – Sometimes the decision to transition is not ours. Today’s volatile dairy industry is a good example. Markets have been eliminated and other financially feasible options may not be available. That may mean selling the dairy cows and transitioning to raising crops or commodities that haven’t been considered before. It also may mean seeking off-farm employment.
Or, it may be the transition when a loved one passes. No one looks forward to the day when we must say good bye. But it will happen to each of us.
 In both cases, you will go through a grieving process because you’ve lost something that was dear to you. It may be cows you cared for and worked with daily. It may be a loved one that was a great pillar of strength and always provided a warm welcome to anyone who entered the door.
It would be wrong to think we can get through such situation without grieving. It’s a healthy way to work through the losses in our lives. You need to give yourself permission to do so and permission to seek help needed.
What Now? – Whether the transition is your choice or made for you, what you do with it makes all the difference in the world. Be honest and open with others about the situation. Stuffing your emotions inside won’t help you get through the transition.
People who are brave enough to admit their challenges usually find they are not alone; others are going through the same thing. Having someone to talk to and support you through the transition will make a huge difference.
Transitions are inevitable. You’ll learn to navigate each one as you go. But looking for the positives in each transition will make the road ahead easier to navigate and the days brighter once again.
This article made possible through the USDA Risk Management funding.
Pennsylvania Farm Link is a non-profit organization committed to assisting farmers with successions and transitions of their farm operations including facilitation of succession plan and beginning farmer resources. For more information please call 717-705-2121 or go to
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