What does farm succession planning have to do with Las Vegas marketing? We’ve all seen the advertisements and commercials for the excitement that happens in Las Vegas. Generally, they are selling are variety of things; including gambling, shows, sex, partying, and a wild time. Many of those things would be frowned upon in the Midwest, but Las Vegas has embraced the opportunity to capitalize on those things. They market that people can come do something in their city they normally would not do and then return back to their lives at home. Of course, it is very easy for most of us to throw down the judgment card. It’s kind of the “your sin is worse than my sin” mentality. The Vegas advertisements clearly tell you that you can come sin in our town and nobody will ever know when you get home.

Wait, what does this have to do with farm succession?

Well, over time, it seems as though I have had multiple conversations and meetings with families where a family member acts one way in public and another way in the shop. Maybe the farming heir acts one way at the basketball game and another way to his siblings. Maybe the family has a serious blow out screaming, cursing argument on the farm and then get in their cars, go to church, and get out behaving nicely. This makes for some very interesting planning dynamics.

Then I starting hearing about their farming operation, I can easily get my mind wrapped around their estate issues and potential solutions and then they start to tell me about these “other little issues”. Over time other conversations with a spouse, farm heir, or siblings come up and I start to discover that although they did not go to Vegas, there are certain things they would rather not have anyone else know. I start to wonder about various conflicts to farm continuation.

During a visit the Dad starts telling me his side of the story, and I get concerned that the farming heir has some problems. Only a week later, I’m meeting with the farming heir and when he is away from his parents, he starts telling me about how badly Dad behaves and how he has a history of mistreating people that are closest to him and I start to think, ‘Hmm… the farming heir is a pretty good guy but dad has some issues.’

A few days later, I’m meeting another family of three brothers who farm together. It seems like a good farm setup with land and cattle, but I can observe some hesitation to move forward. I start to figure out that there must be something else going on. I purposely schedule some individual meetings with the three of them and observed some bones in the closet. Seldom did they share their own shortcomings, but they were often willing to tell me about others’ shortcomings. Sometimes they were petty little things, and other times the issues were significant. Either way there were underlying issues that posed a significant barrier to moving forward.

Oops, it seems like what happened in “Vegas” did not stay in “Vegas”.

I am kind of old school and traditional and believe that right is right and wrong is wrong. Wrong in the Midwest is also wrong in Vegas. Some farm families have gone years and even generations with bad behavior on the farm, and they just keep sweeping it under the rug hoping nobody will see. In some instances, even to the extent of creating fear in their spouse and other family members and now in today’s terminology may classify as bullying.

For some families, financial aspects of planning are the main barrier, but for other families, some of the things that have happened on the farm and then stay on the farm are going to be the very things that keep the farm from getting to the next generation.

Very seldom have I run across a farm that I cannot figure out a farm continuation solution, even though some a more challenging than others. However, the ones that become nearly impossible are the ones that want part of the story left in Vegas. Is there any advice for that? Yes. The truth will set you free.