Are You Ready for Death to Knock on Your Farm Business Door?

David L. Marrison, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Coshocton County, Ohio State University Extension

As we each traverse through our lives, we all are presented with moments that make us pause and reflect on how precious the time is we have been given here on earth. This past year has been filled with such moments for many.

I personally had one of these moments at the end of 2016 when I was flying out of Columbus to teach two days of farm transition workshops for North Carolina State University.  As our flight began its ascent to head south, the plane started shaking and I heard terrible back firing noises from the right engine. When I looked out my window over the wing, I was surprised to see the engine on fire. The next 15 minutes were quite nerve racking and soul searching for everyone on board. My quick disaster calculations had us only having a 50% chance of surviving at best.

Over those 15 minutes, I had time to think of all the things I had not completed and what the ramifications of my impending peril would be. Some of the things which flashed through my mind included: Why didn’t I finish the new version of my will?  Does anyone know the combination to the safe?  Does anyone know where to find all my passwords to all the accounts? Does anyone know where I hid the bars of gold and silver (that’s, right, I don’t have any). Thankfully, we were able to land on a runway cleared just for us, complete with emergency vehicles. I credit the entire flight crew for handling this situation with a great deal of calm and professionalism. They were literally life savers.

What will be your trigger or moment which will cause you to pause and think about your mortality? Granted, death is a topic that many are not comfortable talking about. However, our challenge as farm managers is to make time to undertake succession planning which will make life easier for our farm business and family once we are gone.

One of the hypothetical questions we pose in our OSU Extension farm succession workshops is, “What knowledge would you need to pass on if you knew you had only 2 months to live?” This exact scenario happened to our family and our dairy farm over a decade ago when my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I am grateful that we had the seven weeks with my dad to make preparations. I challenge you to think how your farm and family would react to the loss of the principal operator.  What knowledge and skills need to be transferred to the next generation so they can be successful without you? If there is no farming heir, what will happen to the farm? Will it be sold? Or does the family transition from owner-operator to an owner-landlord role?

To help jump start your family’s conversation, OSU Extension is pleased to offer a virtual three part “Planning for the Future of Your Farm” workshop on February 15, 22, and March 1, 2021, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. via Zoom. This workshop is designed to help farm families learn strategies and provide tools to successfully create a succession and estate plan that helps you transfer your farm’s ownership, management, and assets to the next generation.

Topics discussed during this series include: Developing Goals for Estate and Succession; Planning for the Transition of Control; Planning for the Unexpected; Communication and Conflict Management during Farm Transfer; Legal Tools & Strategies; Developing Your Team; Getting Affairs in Order; and Selecting an Attorney.

This workshop will be taught by members of the OSU Farm Office Team featuring Peggy Hall and Jeffrey Lewis, Attorneys from the OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program, and David Marrison, Co-Leader of the Ohio Ag Manager Team.

Because of the program being held virtually, it is a great opportunity for parents, children, and grandchildren to join together, regardless of where they live in Ohio or across the United States to develop a plan for the future of your family farm.

Pre-registration is required as one packet of program materials will be mailed to participating families. Electronic copies of the course materials will also be available to all participants. The registration fee is $40 per farm family. The registration deadline is February 10. More information and on-line registration can be accessed at

We at OSU Extension hope many of you will join us to start your plan or use the webinar series as a chance to review and refresh your existing plan. Confront death before it knocks on your door.

More information about this series can be obtained at or by contacting David Marrison at the Coshocton County Extension Office at 740-622-2265 or by email at

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