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4 Things to Do When Your Kids Come Home to Farm

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Matt and Lisa Moreland hoped at least one of their sons would return to their farm based near Medford, Okla. What they didn’t anticipate was all three sons – James, Will and David – wanted to join the family business once they completed their college degrees. 

“It put me back on my heels. I thought, ‘Wow, we’re going to have to find a way to grow,’” Matt recalls. 

Matt and Lisa Moreland (center) enacted a growth plan after learning all three of their sons decided to join their Oklahoma operation. (Moreland Family Photo)

That was seven years ago. Here are four things Moreland says he has learned in the process.

1. DON’T SLICE YOUR “PIE” INTO SMALLER PIECES. Instead, make a bigger one. The Morelands have grown their operation to accommodate each son’s return. 

With James, they added an Angus cowherd. Will has taken the lead on all things agronomic on the farm, which grows corn, soybeans, winter wheat and cotton. David runs the excavation/construction side of the operation. 

Scaling up the faming enterprise as each son returned has enabled the Morelands to compensate them accordingly. “They also get an annual bonus and equity in the operation,” Matt says. 

2. LET YOUR LEADERS LEAD. “I quickly learned as we’ve grown there’s only so much I can do. I can guide, but I can’t be a control freak,” Moreland says. 

How that plays out: each son leads in their respective areas of expertise, and then he and the farm’s eight employees provide support as needed.

“We meet as a group every Monday morning to look at what needs to be done in the week ahead, make assignments and then modify them as necessary,” he says. 

Don’t underestimate the value of having clearly defined roles and accountability when children return to the farm, suggests Rena Striegel, president of Transition Point Business Advisors. 

“Create a template to delegate responsibility and build in accountability to develop the next generation of leaders,” she advises. 

3. CARVE OUT YOUR ROLE. Moreland functions as the managing partner in the operation, overseeing the cash flow for the farm as well as the big-picture direction for the operation. He also takes the lead on lender, landlord and Farm Service Agency (FSA) relationships. 

4. HARNESS HELP FROM EXPERTS TO CREATE PLANS. “The investment of good counsel is minimal compared to the cost of mistakes,” says Kitt Tovar Jensen, staff attorney at the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation. 

Moreland knew, even with professional counsel, mistakes can be made. His solution: “Vet your plans with key individuals and organizations. For financial planning, you have to consider the accounting side of things as well as the legal components, and it can be challenging to understand what might work for the FSA, as well as for your accountant and even the IRS,” he says.

Some key questions Moreland asks of experts: What do you think of our plan? How can we make it better? What else should we do?

This story was written by Rhonda Brooks and originally appeared in Drovers.


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