Ron Hanson said a lot of great things Friday at the Women in Agriculture conference, held in the Quad Cities. In short, his message boils down to this: parents need to make a plan and communicate the plan. A will is not enough. Among my favorite Ron Hanson quotes of the day:
On wills and plans: "There is a difference between a will and a succession plan: a will says who gets what. A succession plan guarantees the farm will be there and everyone knows what happens next."
On the unexpected: "If something unexpected happened today to the farm or within the family, does everyone in the entire family know and understand what would happen tomorrow?"
On parental influence: "Parents don't realize the influence they have. Differences of opinion are rarely voiced while the parents are still living. But once the parents are gone, watch what happens next. Nothing puts family values to the test like property and wealth."
He also told several heartbreaking stories of families that have fallen apart, due to jealousy (mostly) but jealously that came as a result of parents who failed to either plan or share their plan with the family. He also told the story of a farm couple who came into his office for counseling. The husband came in, sat down in the furthest chair from him, crossed his arms and said, "I don't know what the h&%* we're doing here." The wife walked in and sat as far from the husband as she could. The husband said, "The boys are getting the farm and that's the end of that." The wife said, "I won't hurt any of my children and we're going to divide it fairly between all five kids." They spent two hours talking and no one changed their mind.
Dr. Hanson shared this story with a North Carolina farm women's conference and thinking through the legal realities of this situation, he asked them, "What do you think happens next?"
A woman in the audience piped up quickly: "That's easy. He dies in his sleep."
And just like that, a man in North Caroline is sleeping with one eye open.
But back to the interview. DeAnna Thomas switched back into her broadcasting hat Friday and interviewed Dr. Hanson. It's a compelling look at a man who's spent his entire career counseling farm families, and sharing what he's learned. I guarantee it's worth your time.