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Oregon will soon undergo a major shift in farm ownership. With close to 60 percent of Oregon's farm operators aged 55 years and older, retirement of the senior generation can spark succession planning. A younger generation must be ready to step in and manage Oregon’s family farms. After becoming the managers, the next generation is poised to become the farm owners. Careful succession planning ensures the lasting success of the farm and the family.

This workshop series will convene multi-generational family farms that are ready to start their transition to the next generation. Their owner-operators will be planning for retirement and have identified a successor. A successor is a person with the expertise to take over the farm in the future. The successor can be a family member or outside the family. In any case, the whole family will be affected by the transition and has a role to play. This seminar series will bring together families in similar situations to inspire their success in making their transition.

The two-part format allows necessary time for reflection and discussion within the family. Families will explore future management duties and new systems of ownership. Participants will build genograms, set guidelines for family meeting, and build five-year organizational plans. Their work will create a roadmap for a successful transition to the next generation.

Lack of succession planning poses great risks to Oregon farm families. In 2007, the average large and very large family farms were valued at $2.6 million and $4.3 million, respectively. The unexpected death or disability of the current owner puts the family farm and much of its value at risk. Additionally, farm assets or revenues diverted to retirement accounts draw resources away from the next farm owner. Talented potential successors may leave the family operation, or even agriculture, if forced to wait years for control.

The next generation of Oregon farmers and ranchers are poised to take the helm. Agricultural leaders around the state have recognized the need for succession planning in recent years. In 2013, one of Oregon’s Board of Agriculture’s top 10 priorities was to “help young or new farmers and transitional family farmers successfully become the next generation of aspiring producers.” In 2012, Oregon Century Farm and Ranches named “promoting successful transitions of family farms to younger generations” as their second most important priority. This Family Agricultural Enterprise Succession seminar will help the senior generation enter their retirement years knowing the younger generation is prepared to continue the legacy of their family farm.