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Free retreats help Minnesota farm families plan a transition to next generation

University of Minnesota Extension is offering three free family retreat weekends in 2023 to help guide the farm transition discussion.

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The University of Minnesota Extension Service offers free family retreat weekends to help guide the farm transition discussion.
Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC
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When farm families think about transitioning to the next generation, the first thing that often comes to mind is transferring the assets — the land, the buildings, the equipment.

But Nathan Hulinksy with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, says it really needs to start with a plan to transfer the management responsibilities.

“Because if the son who's taken over the farm doesn't know the proper way of picking out seed genetics or, you know, picking out what bulls to use for the dairy farm, if they don't know some of those management capabilities, the farm’s not going to survive the asset transfer,” Hulinsky said. “I've heard a lot of horror stories where they sell the son the combine and he doesn't know how to maintain it or use it properly. Five years later, it just didn't work and the farm is sold to someone else.”

To help families avoid the horror stories, the Minnesota Extension offers free family retreat weekends to help guide the transition discussion.

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Nathan Hulinsky, University of Minnesota Extension.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Hulinsky said Minnesota Extension started going to a two-day format a few years ago, after getting feedback that a single session of a few hours was often too overwhelming with the amount of information presented.

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In 2023, Extension is offering three two-day retreats that start on Friday, 5 to 8:30 p.m., and continue the next day, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The locations and dates are:

  • Mankato, Feb. 24-25
  • St. Cloud, March 10-11
  • Mahnomen, March 31-April 1

The sessions are free and three meals are provided. Hulinsky said most families spend overnight at home and return the next morning; hotel rooms are not included.
Registration information can be at https://extension.umn.edu/courses-and-events . Hulinsky said there is no hard deadline but registering a week or two in advance will help guarantee enough food is ordered.

The retreats are facilitated by Hulinsky and Jim Molenaar of St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

Hulinsky was part of two retreats last year, with three to five family members from each family participating and eight to 10 families at each session.

He said the networking among families can also help talk through and offer different viewpoints to the unique situation every farm presents.

Hulinsky said the two-day format also helps families keep the conversation and transition process going after being hit with a wave of information.

“We encourage both parties, you know, the younger generation and the older generation, to show up to these retreats to kind of … force the discussion and say, ‘Hey, like, what are our long term goals, right?’"

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Hulinsky said talking through goals is one of the first big steps in the process — and not just goals for the business side of things, but also personal and family goals.

“You know, maybe that the business goal is they really want to expand, but a family goal is they want to go and do a bunch of vacations. Sometimes those goals don't work well with each other,” Hulinsky said.

University of Minnesota Extension at work
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Some other topics include defining job responsibilities and perhaps even job titles.

And, while participants won’t be opening up their accounting books, there will be a discussion of finances and potential tax implications of different options.

“How do we sell the daughter the cows? Just some of those sale aspects we do talk about fairly briefly,” Hulinsky said.

Families will get some worksheets to work through to help with planning for continuing the farm and retirement.

“So I think the take home is making sure everybody's in the know,” Hulinsky said. “But again, it's not over on Saturday at 4 o'clock when we wrap up this discussion.”

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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