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Gaining experience before ownership

Farm transition planning creates a path forward to move a dairy from one generation to the next. In our March issue of Hoard’s Dairyman, four families shared their transition planning experiences in a round table article.

While many of the skills needed to dairy farm are learned on the job, some parents encourage their children or incoming partners to gain experience elsewhere before joining the business. For Kari Gribble, Nick Schultz, and Katy Schultz, siblings that own Tri-Fecta Farms in Fox Lake, Wis., their parents were very proactive when it came to succession planning. Transition planning was always part of Keven and Cheryl Schultz’s business model, and they welcomed all three of their children back to the dairy. However, they were expected to first obtain additional education following high school and then work somewhere else to gain skills they could bring back to the business. The trio says they will follow this same model with their children, who currently range in age from 9 to 16 years old, if they show interest in joining the dairy that currently milks about 425 cows.

Todd and Louise Malecha are farming at Malecha Enterprises with five of their seven children near Villard, Minn. They said that they encouraged their children to pursue education following high school, and they all attended community college. Most of them held internships off the farm as well. With this experience in hand, when they returned to the farm, they were able to gravitate to the areas they were skilled at and that they enjoyed. In addition to the dairy herd of 1,200 Holsteins, the Malechas have a manure pumping business, a gravel pit, and a custom cropping business.

Scott Wedemeier returned to his family’s farm after college and worked with his parents, Gary and Becky, to transition the herd of 180 Brown Swiss and Holsteins to an organic, grazing system. As he looks to the future and the potential that one or more of his children might want to farm someday, he said he and his wife, Catherine, would likely require some advanced educational training through college or mentoring to gain an understanding of farming systems, the environment, and how they function together.

Kurt Steiner’s father and uncles established a transition plan for their Steinhurst Farm LLC near Creston, Ohio, that included the stipulation that new partners must work at the dairy for three years before joining the ownership team. Kurt and his wife, Robin, are following that same plan with their sons. Both Zach and Christian obtained college degrees and had off-farm jobs prior to returning to the 675-cow dairy as the ninth generation to farm in their township.

If you want to learn more about how these farms transferred ownership from one generation to the next, please read the article, “These farms share their transition planning experience,” which starts on page 126 of the March 2023 issue of Hoard’s Dairyman.

March 6, 2023

Abbey Bauer



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