CHANGES in the farming world can sometimes take you by surprise. But no one could have predicted the speed and scale of change over the last few years, including price increases and inflation rates which were completely unexpected.

Not surprising therefore that some farmers may be wondering if this is the time to reconsider where their future lies and potentially to involve the younger generation more. However, it’s not always easy to find the time to plan carefully for the future when there’s so much else to think about and farmers are so busy.

Matt Darke, south Devon farmer and winner of the South West Farmer Family Run Farm of the Year award 2023 speaks about how his family worked through their succession planning difficulties to encourage others to get prepared.

The Darke family is a four-generation active farming family focusing mainly on dairy with a small flock of pedigree sheep. The farm has been in the family since the 1960s when Matt’s great-grandfather was at the helm.

Matt shared: “As a fourth-generation farmer, I know too well the importance of talking about succession and the future of the farm business and I’ll admit this is something we have struggled with in the past.

“As families get bigger, succession becomes more of a difficult discussion. Having children of my own has opened my eyes to making sure that the farm business is structured in a way that provides equal opportunity for my children, whilst making sure the business remains in a strong position for years to come.”

Matt has two children (Jack and Isla) with his wife, Sadie, and says the most important thing, following lessons learned from the handover of the farm in previous years, is making sure it’s clear how the farm will progress and is organised before reaching a crunch point.

Matt said, “We’ve got to make it as fair as possible for all of our children. Hopefully, our children will be as passionate as we are and want to carry the farm forward, so we need to think about splitting it between them or make the decision based on who wants to farm,” he says.

If you haven’t thought about the details of handing over your farm, you’re not alone. The 2023 NFU Mutual Voice of the Farmer research study spoke to 1,703 farmers across the UK. The majority of farmers surveyed are yet to put plans in place.

Now may be the time to discuss the answers to important questions, such as:

  1. What is the longer-term direction of your farming business?
  2. What role would each family member like to play now and in the future?
  3. What development, skills or experience do the younger generation need to acquire?
  4. How are the assets to be owned in the short, medium, and long term?
  5. What provision will be made for those who are not involved in the business?
  6. What level of income does each member of the family want or need from the business?
  7. Where will each member of the family live?

Once you’ve spoken with the relevant professionals such as an accountant or a solicitor and have the right plan in place for your farm, NFU Mutual can help you with your financial plan.

Our network of local NFU Mutual Agents works extensively with farmers. Not only do they understand your environment, but they’re also on your doorstep to provide a local personal service.

Agents are supported by expert NFU Mutual Financial Advisers, who are used to dealing with farming businesses.

NFU Mutual Financial Advisers advise on NFU Mutual products and selected products from specialist providers and will explain the advice services we offer and the charges.

Find out more here by clicking here.

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