Who Will Take Over the Family Farm? We Want to Hear From You - Modern Farmer

Who Will Take Over the Family Farm? We Want to Hear From You

Whether you’re planning for succession or looking to inherit the family farm, we want to hear your story.

The average American farmer is 57 years old.
Photography by Shutterstock.

What’s to become of the family farm?

As America’s farming population gets older, an increasing number of small and medium-scale farmers are grappling with the question of when and how to retire, and whether to keep farms in the family, rent out their land, or sell. 

More than one-third of farmers in the US are over the age of 65, up 26 percent in the period between 2012 and 2017, when the most recent USDA census took place. And despite growing rates of consolidation, family farms make up 98 percent of US farms, meaning that intergenerational handoffs have historically made up a significant portion of ownership changes. 

Indeed, of the 10 percent of all farmland expected to undergo a transfer of ownership between 2015 and 2019, only about a quarter was expected to be sold between nonrelatives, according to USDA survey data. The rest was to be transferred via trusts, gifts, wills, and sale to a family relative. 

But with complex financial pressures, family dynamics, and the preferences of younger people at play, there’s no one-size-fits-all story of what happens when farms change hands. 

That’s where you come in. We’re collecting stories and experiences of real farm families to inform future reporting on this topic. We want to know: What has your experience been? What issues have you encountered? How does it feel to keep the farm in the family, or not?

We would love to hear from you, especially if you are:

  • An owner-operator navigating who will take over the farm when you retire or pass away.
  • A child or other relative of a farmer who has taken over farm operations, or plans to in the future.
  • A child of a farmer who has decided not to take over the family farm.


To share your experience, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article, or email us at info{at}modfarmer{dot}com using “Family Farm” in the subject line. If we decide we’d like to know more, we may contact you for a future story about succession on the family farm. 

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1 year ago

This is not just an America issue. Here on the other side of the world taking on our family farm was a gradual one for me. As the third daughter it was never really expected that I would shoulder the responsibility. But I was the one that turned up when the barn needed raising, storm damage needed repairing, trees needed planting / pruning / harvesting. And it was me who set up and run direct selling when my parents struggled to get a decent price for the crop. I’ll never forget the day my 80 year old Dad turned up… Read more »

2017 Scotts last mow.jpeg
1 year ago

I’m not from the US, but New Zealand. Our family farm wasn’t big enough to support two generations, so like many farm kids I went out and got an education, then jobs and somewhat lost contact with the land that been my playground in childhood. My career bloomed and I earned far better money than a farmer could. I found a wife and married. Then at about age 65 my dad sold the farm. He had discussed with both my sister and I whether we’d like to take over. We would have needed to buy him out though, so secure… Read more »

Just my thoughts
1 year ago

Unbelievably hard decision to take on a business such as farming. If there is a will, there is always a way. But it takes a committed effort from all family members to make it work. And a strong business sense. Plus luck. Hard work, long hours and stress will be a given. It can be immensely rewarding, but does our culture value the lifestyle and dedication it takes to make it work? Social media can glamorize things, but living it day to day, dealing with weather changes, schedule changes, employee uncertainty, dwindling rural services within shrinking rural towns, growing dependence… Read more »

Succession in California
1 year ago

For resources in CA, California Farm Link has started a Succession Program called the Regenerator to generate a plan and support the process of transferring farm ownership. They would be a great place to find people committed to this process.

Lori J.
1 year ago

No- one in my family farms- just me. I inherited the farm in 2013, from my dad, who farmed until he died in 2019. I am planning to keep it a farm by land contracting it to a young area farmer. Developments are taking over farms at an alarming pace. Private land ownership is the best ownership to preserve farmland. It’s just to tempting for relatives to ” cash in” and sell the farm, for lack of interest in farming. When I am gone, I will have no control over what happens. I am choosing to be pro active, and… Read more »

Linda Cox
1 year ago

My parents bought a farm in their 50’s. They had never farmed before. They raised some animals and grew winter wheat. Eventually they planted it all in Sunsweet prunes and harvested for 30 years. They past a few years back and I ended up buying out my brother and took over the farm. The prune orchard they had for so many years was ripped out and they leased the farm to an almond grower before they died. The year after they past, my house burndt down in the camp fire. I ended up buying out my brothers half of the… Read more »

1 year ago

Another related issue/opportunity is preparation for the handoff of farm and ranch land between generations. Modern ag is a high-tech, highly capitalized and increasingly regulated industry. The person drafted into the role of “executor” is often someone who moved away from the farm decades prior and as such is not equipped to handle the farm management, financial forensics, estate settlement and transfer duties. If interested in solutions to this common farm family conundrum, check out Expect To Inherit A Farm Or Ranch? how-to handbook at http://www.rootandbloomforever.com.

8 months ago

In order to facilitate the transition of farm ownership in the Golden State, California Farm Link has launched a Succession Program called the Regenerator. They would be an excellent resource for finding enthusiastic participants in this endeavor.