NORWOOD YOUNG AMERICA, Minn. – Farm transitions may have a negative or undesirable connotation within farming families. A mix of emotions, generations, plans and finances can be a recipe for disaster. Or, they may not be.
    Merri Post shared her perspective on the farm transition process at the Carver County Dairy Expo Feb. 18 at Central High School in Norwood Young America, Minn.
    She began by establishing there is no such thing as a normal family, and all families struggle with farm transitions, including her own. She shared experiences on her farm as she is finishing up a generational transition with her in-laws and also incorporating her children into the farm. She milks 140 cows with her husband, Bill, with two robotic milking units near Chandler, Minn.
    “I feel [farm transitions] are an important issue as the average age of farmers increase, we need to do everything we can to make these transitions successful,” Post said. “It’s the little things that make a farm transition go south and helping farms learn to deal with those little things is important to aid in a productive and efficient farm transition.”
    Post worked as a coordinator for the Minnesota Dairy Initiative Program where she aided farms in the southwest region for 14 years before coming home to farm full time. She has recently gained certification as a farm transition specialist with the International Farm Transfer Network.
     “We tend to think no one has trouble with farm transitions, but that is simply not true,” Post said. “Every farm has issues, but the successful ones know how to deal with it.”
    One common misunderstanding on farms undergoing transitions is the desire to treat all heirs equally.
    “I work to help farms be successful in transition, and when we come in with the mindset of splitting equally, my stomach gets tight,” Post said. “That’s not always the best decision to keep the farm successful. That’s the point where I turn to Mom and Dad and ask them what they want their legacy to be. Usually, they want their farm set up for success and they want to make sure all heirs are satisfied. That’s something we can do.”
    While all heirs deserve to be valued and heard, they do not all need to own a portion of the farm.
    “Farming is not a birth right,” she said.
    Spouses also can be a hindrance for a smooth farm transition.
    “Make sure your spouse knows their role on the farm,” Post said. “It doesn’t matter how large or small the role is, but make sure they know what they are signing up for.”
    Communication can be misinterpreted with multiple generations and genders.
    “Men and women communicate differently,” Post said. “Women make decisions based on mutual agreement while men choose to resolve by forced persuasion over majority rule. Women are open to share problems, while men tend to keep problems to themselves. Women focus on details of emotion and men focus on details of fact. Men are problem solvers, while women desire to understand the problem.”
    Understanding these fundamental differences will help couples communicate and build a successful business during transition times.
    “You should feel like you’re doing the right thing 70 percent of the time,” Post said. “If 70 percent of the time you handle problems the right way, then you will have more mental reserves and energy to handle the tougher situations.”
    As a farm works through decisions, everything discussed must be documented to avoid confusion later on regarding boundaries and ownership.
    “You will never regret writing down something you don’t need, but you will always regret not writing down something you do need,” Post said. “Sometimes it comes to the little stuff that can take the farm down.”
    Whether the farm transition sounds like torture or a walk in the park, Post offers tips for every farmer, no matter where they are in the transition journey.
    “This will be a lifelong process,” Post said. “Transition does not happen in a short period of time. It is a journey.”