David Zirnhelt talks the importance of talking as a family to plan on the future of a ranch. (File Photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Where Love and Business Intersect

It is no secret to people who know us that our family has been working on a plan to pass the ranch over to the next generation.

We have made substantial progress in that who will look after the land is pretty much settled. Now we need to figure out what do we do with the cattle and the machinery.

When the decisions were made, thankfully by the next generation, then a feeling of loss ( of the land) crept up on me. I had to grieve a little until I realized that there is so much care to give the land and the livestock that my role can be valued.

I have said before in this column that often the retiring farmer can assume the role of the hired hand and do what the new owners and managers want. The burden of decisions can be a thing of the past. Weight can be taken off the shoulders. We all know what that feels like.

I am writing on this topic this week because most ranches still don’t have a transition or succession plan in place. With every year that passes, time after the slogging is reduced by a year.

The Farm Advisors of Canada stress that family meetings are important. They are where the love in the family and the business can collide if good communication doesn’t happen.

As hard as it is to find time for such regular meetings, it remains essential for working out differences and for getting on the same page. Everybody needs to be at the meetings otherwise information might be lost in the reporting.

It is a good idea to find a good time to meet at 11 a.m. and finish by 12:30 p.m. and share the lunch meal. It is a good idea to find a babysitter if you need one.

The sooner you get these meetings started, the sooner you can get at the issues of passing on the business to the next generation. Sometimes it takes years and years to finish the plan.

The sooner you start the sooner it can feel better. Our experience at reaching a significant decision on land transfer has been that the next generation gets on board as owners put their heart into the operation.

The business of the ranch and the caring love families have for each other meet.

As we age extra help and caring is welcomed. It feels good.

Our experience is that our offspring really care about the land as a place called home. We should never underestimate the power of that feeling.

Each in our own way can help make a transition a rewarding experience.

The longer the land has been cared for by the family, the deeper the caregiving feeling is. Some peoples have this attachment to land and the living things going back many centuries.

Imagine how it feels to retain or recoup the responsibility to steward the land you and your ancestors were born on?

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

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