Why family farm succession is important

Research by the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit recently showed the “growing of products” contributed 6 per cent of NZ’s GDP in 2011/12.Add in the processing of those products, and all of the goods and services these activities consume, and the total size of the agri-food sector in 2011/12 rises to $40 billion.Close to $1 for every $5 spent in NZ that year.

Without farmers we’d be a poorer nation and most NZ farms are still family run.Of all the farming models in NZ, family farms are by far the most persistent type.This is not likely to change soon.Farming families remain the backbone of New Zealand agriculture.

When one generation succeeds the previous, it is not just land that is passed down through the family.Along with the land comes the knowledge and passion required to farm that land successfully.Even in the corporate farming world, many senior managers have gained their knowledge and passion for farming on a family farm.It is a fact that few corporate farming operations today make significant effort to introduce the younger generation to farming.

The transfer of family farms from one generation to the next drives a vast farming apprenticeship system on which the whole sector relies.The national importance of this educational process is often under-rated.Every farm is different and complex.Each farm has strengths and weaknesses that may take years to understand.A working knowledge of the crops, livestock and machinery that suit a farm takes years to acquire.Farms are generally better run by people who have a long personal history on and passion for the land.Many of our country’s best farmers were trained by their father and mother from the age of 5 or 6 in how to farm the very block they still run at 65.