IDAHO FALLS — Drafting a business mission statement and key goals is a simple and effective — but often overlooked — way for farmers to facilitate a successful transition of their operations to their children, University of Idaho Extension officials advise.

UI hosted the first of four weekly, five-hour workshops focused on farm succession and estate planning on Oct. 25 at the Bonneville County Extension Office.

Jon Hogge, UI’s Extension cereals specialist, said producers seldom record in simple language what they hope to accomplish with their farms, ranches or dairies. In addition to guiding decisions, Hogge said good mission statements ensure children are “on the same page” and prepared to follow common management principles when they inherit their parents’ agricultural operations.

“Somebody may be taking over that business, or there may be other people involved in that business, and it’s no longer possible for the owner to keep those ideas in his head,” Hogge said.

During the workshop, participants each drafted a mission statement, which they then used to identify a few major goals.

Hogge will print and frame the statements for participants to hang in their businesses, where employees can see them.

Craig Burtenshaw — who runs both a local dental practice and a farm raising alfalfa, barley and potatoes — had developed a mission statement for his dental office, but not for his farm. The statement he drafted during the workshop was patterned after his dental practice’s mission statement, emphasizing quality over quantity, providing for employees into retirement and exceeding market requirements.

“The mission statement becomes a lot of what we want our farm to continue on with,” Burtenshaw said. “The mission statement won’t be just for my wife and I. We would hope that would carry on to the succession on the farm.”

Idaho Falls ranchers Jean and Boyd Schwieder focused on honesty, hard work, good communication, high-quality products and maintaining profitability.

Hogge noted during the workshop that simply starting the conversation about farm succession is often the greatest challenge. The Schwieders mailed letters to their children seeking their input on passing down the farm, and they plan to reference their new mission statement when the family meets to discuss the topic during the holidays.

“I think if you’ve got it written down and you look at it and use it, there’s value in it,” Boyd Schwieder said.

Hogge explained producers should first create a list of values to be formed into a mission statement, and then use the mission statement to draft two or three corresponding strategic goals. Strategic goals should be long-range, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, he said.

Producers should also identify specific activities to implement strategic goals, called tactical and operational goals.

“Goals are proactive,” Hogge said. “They allow us to take charge of our lives instead of simply reacting to external forces, and goals provide the basis of our evaluation.”

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