Hanson delivers advice to help families keep the farm intact

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Ron Hanson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, delivered an important message about managing farm and ranch properties for succeeding generations during the 100th annual Cattlemen’s Day at Kansas State University on March 1.

Hanson introduced his presentation by establishing the role of the father.

“Key point to remember, dad wears two hats: boss hat and dad hat,” Hanson said. “Wearing the boss hat, it means he is in charge. When he is wearing dad hat, he’s more understanding but when things go wrong and he gets upset, the boss hat is put back on.”

Everyone can relate to this type of dad, because he’s the one who takes charge of the operation and continues to support and help grow his family.

“If dad just wears his boss hat, ‘my way or else,’ his children may think of themselves as only the hired help,” Hanson said.

The outcome in the long run may result in the son or daughter not wanting to come back and run the family operation. Then what happens?

“But what if something were to happen to dad,” said Hanson. “If dad would happen to pass, then mom takes control of the family operation. Would everything remain the same? Or did mom always feel it was ‘his’ farm?”

During special holidays and birthdays, dad can sometimes become so caught up in working sun-up-till-sun-down he forgets to make time to celebrate with his family.

If dad fails to include mom in the operation, would mom sell the farm without the children’s consent and move to town or even get remarried?

“Did dad love his farm more than he ever loved mom?” Hanson asks. “Family relationships are no different than a marriage.”

When the parents reach a point where they cannot take care of themselves, which child will be the one to come back?

“Children should always respect the wishes of their parents,” Hanson said.

Communication is key in a relationship between parents and their children.

“What if the ‘what if’ actually happened?” asked Hanson. “It is important to have something well designed and in writing for a family’s operation estate.”

Now what may rise to the surface is, “what if mom and dad can’t reach an agreement for their operation?”

“Dad and mom need to speak with their children and find out if there is any reason their children wouldn’t be able to get along after they pass,” Hanson said.

If dad and mom have any strict wishes for their operation after they pass, it is better to take care of it now, rather than after disaster strikes.

Hanson left his audience with four ideas worth remembering. “People change; no one likes to be surprised; if someone’s not willing to discuss these issues, that should tell you something; and, if there is no trust there is no respect.” Hanson said. “Farms can be replaced, but families cannot.”

Hanson said every operation, big or small, knows family is important and should not be taken for granted. He has counseled with Nebraska farm families for more than 30 years to help them resolve family conflicts in a more positive manner and to improve family relations through better communications.

Kate Hagans is a student in agricultural communications at Kansas State University

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