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January 11, 2002

So happy together: Workshop smoothes co-owner farm problems

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Two heads are better than one in farming, so long as both sets of brains are on the same wavelength.

Farmers who add a son, daughter or business associate to their agricultural operation often confront special challenges as their new joint venture moves forward. A Purdue University program can help make for a smoother transition.

The 22nd annual Farming Together Workshop takes place Jan. 25-26 in Stewart Center, on Purdue's West Lafayette campus. The workshop is sponsored by Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics.

Alan Miller, a Purdue Extension farm business management specialist and workshop coordinator, said any farmer who shares management duties with another or hopes to pass the farm on to children should find the program beneficial.

"This is a real opportunity for anybody who's considering farming together with some other individual," Miller said. "Oftentimes we think of a father and son or father and daughter that want to farm together, but we also see individual farmers who have been farming independently that want to combine forces. We see a lot of situations where people are already farming together and they want to change their business arrangements. This particular workshop would be very appropriate for them.

"We've even tried to gear it a little more this year to people who might be thinking, 'I want to retire and I want to find a successor, and is there some opportunity to do that?'"

Workshop speakers include Purdue agricultural economists and a private management consultant. Speakers will address such topics as "Effective Communication and Personal Relations," "Strategic Planning: Developing a Shared Vision for the Future of the Farm," "Alternative Types of Business Entities" and "Organizational Structure, Compensation, Evaluation and Other Issues in Managing the Multiple Owner-Operator Farm."

Time also will be devoted to obstacles farmers may face when they hand the operation down to a son or daughter.

"There are two big issues when that happens," Miller said. "One, you have to train the successor. You have to give them the experiences that will allow them to grow their management skills, because farm businesses – even though they're family businesses – are big businesses. You have to make sure that the next generation's going to have the capability to step in there and continue to be able to make this thing work for them.

"The other big issue is the sheer amount of capital involved in agriculture. You're going to see $2 million to $3 million or more invested in many family farms. If you've got that much capital, how do you take some individual who hasn't been able to accumulate any because they're young, and bring them into the business?"

Farming Together alumni are scattered all over Indiana, Miller said. Many former attendees are operating successful farms.

"We can't solve all the problems in a two-day workshop, but we want to get people off to a good start in terms of farming together," he said.

Workshop registration is limited to 16 farm operations, or about 40 people. Registration fees are $40 per family or farm operation through Jan. 15 and $50 after Jan. 15. To register, contact Sueann Smith at (765) 494-7225 or slsmith1@purdue.edu. For additional workshop information contact Miller at (765) 494-4203 or millerwa@agecon.purdue.edu.

Hotel accommodations are available at the Union Club Hotel on the Purdue campus. For reservations, call (765) 494-8900.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415; sleer@aes.purdue.edu

Source: Alan Miller, (765) 494-4203; millerwa@agecon.purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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