Start the process early, Bernie Tetrault says
By Diego Flammini
Getting the ball rolling on farm transition plans early is better than waiting until a family is forced to start the discussions, one Ontario producer said.
Bernie Tetrault, a cash crop grower and accountant from Chatham-Kent, first approached his parents with a sharecropping agreement in 2000.
“It gave me more control of the operation and more income so I could improve our equipment base,” he told Farms.com.
For the next 12 years, Tetrault and the rest of the family, which includes his brother and two sisters, worked on the full farm transition plan.
His three siblings either live elsewhere or have other interests and careers away from the farm.
Because of this, the transition process went smoothly.
“They had emotional interests in the farm, but no one was really in a position to be an active member of the farm,” he said.
The family completed the transition in 2013.
The Tetrault family did experience challenges along the way.
Tetrault used his experience as an accountant to help ensure the family would be taken care of after the farm transition. This led to some uncomfortable conversations, he said.
“It’s not easy to strike up those discussions, and there are some personal things I would’ve done differently,” he said. “But I would suggest it’s easier to start them rather than having them thrust upon you. Don’t make it part of everyday conversation but work on making it comfortable.”
Looking back, Tetrault would have started the process sooner if he had the opportunity to do so.
He also thinks the current generation can start the process and not wait for the next generation of farmers to begin farm transition planning.
“I would suggest to parents that if they notice one of their children might have an interest in taking over the farm, initiate those conversations when the child is in their late 20s or mid-30s,” he said. “The more breathing room you have, the better. When you’re in a hurry to meet deadlines, that’s when people can get a little impatient or antsy about what the outcome might be.”
Farm transitions are in the spotlight in Canada on Jan. 11 as its recognized as the second annual Farm Transition Appreciation Day.
About 75 per cent of Canadian farms could transition within the next decade. But fewer than 10 per cent of those farms have a transition plan ready, the latest ag census said.
Members of the ag community can use the hashtag #FTADay to follow the day’s events on social media.