For many families working to transfer a farming operation from one generation to the next, it’s not the legal, financial and technical issues that prove most challenging.

As many families have learned from experience — often bitter experience — the biggest challenge often involves ensuring this transition occurs on the basis of open communication and trusting relationships among family members.

Indeed, effective relationship building and overcoming barriers to effective communication often prove to be the critical measure of success in the course of transferring a farming operation from one generation to the next, according to Paul Brown, associate director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

“As it happens, professional help, whether this turns out to be legal, financial or technical assistance, often comes together pretty well,” says Brown who grew up on a family farm in Iowa. “However, it is the human relationships and levels of communication among family members that often prove critical to success.”

“Individual family members come into this muti-generational dialogue with different expectations and goals, but as family members they must develop a common vision of how these goals are going to be met.”

With interest in farm succession planning on the steady rise, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System will hold a series of seminars in February to provide farm families with tools to better ensure these operations are passed as successfully and seamlessly as possible from one generation to the next.