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First State Brought Pertinent Message to Farm Owners

Carthage, Jan. 25th- First State Bank of Illinois hosted their 29th "Ag Strategies" banquet on Monday evening at the Lake Hill Winery.

Featured speaker Professor Dr. Ron Hanson of University of Nebraska/Lincoln spoke to a packed crowd, "How do you take a family farm or a family business and pass it on within the family, one generation to the next, and still remain family? -everyone gets feuding, and we still have family Christmas."

For Hanson the issue is personal. The University of Nebraska professor of 45 years, told those owning family farms, "I would trade places in a second, with any of you, no questions asked, because you have what I always hoped and dreamed about, as it was always what I wanted to do."

But, due to a lack of communication in his family's farming situation between his father and grandfather, the opportunity was taken from him.

Hanson said, "If my grandparents and parents could have found a way to have gotten along, my life would have been totally-totally different!" Christmas, holidays for most of you in this room are a time for celebration, a time for joy:.. but just remember folks, not all families have family Christmas. Christmas for me is pretty sad, and many times... I just cry."

I had the opportunity 3 years ago to speak to the Iowa Farm Bureau at the Young Farmers Conference and everyone went home with a license plate that said, "Love To Farm". I would give anything to own that license plate.

Family is more valuable than the farm, he explains, and too many times decisions are made that exclude some or all of the family members and it ends up splitting up the family.

Fourteen years ago Hanson said his first power point was: "You can buy the family farm, but just remember, I still own it."

Many times parents will let go of ownership, but they will never let go of control. Then you wonder why it isn't working.

Then shortly after that Hanson came up with his second Power Point presentation, "How Much Did Your Lawyer Cost Your Family Farm Estate?"

"What puts families into a court fight with opposing attorneys? That's a family there.

"But that family will be in a court room with opposing attorneys and after the Judge hands down his ruling, that family will probably walk out of that courtroom and never speak to each other again.

"Do you know family members who don't like each other and don't speak to each other?"

Hanson's third power point program is: "What If the What If Actually Happens?"

These are things families don't want to talk about or better yet, pretend they will never happen in their family.

"But my question is folks, what if it does happen?"

"What happens next?"

His last power point is "Keeping The Farm In The Family For The Next Generation: Is There A Plan?"

Hanson asks, "What are the guidelines, Where do we start, How does the process begin?"

Dr. Hanson blended all four of his power points into one presentation, giving some pretty good examples of the problems that are in families who keep secrets, want to keep control, or who can not make a plan or communicate with others.

Dr. Hanson said, if he were given the opportunity, he would "lock the doors to this room and I'd spend my entire night with you. You folks honestly have no idea:what we can accomplish....this is no easy subject....there are no short-cuts... it's no quick meeting with the attorney and everything taken care of. That may be the first of many meetings..... just the starting point.

So, Hanson started with the statement, "So You Thought You Were Buying The Family Farm-Guess Again... or "You Thought You Were Inheriting The Family Farm-Guess Again." Hanson's point is, it may or may not happen.

Hanson said he didn't travel here from Nebraska to make friends. I'm going to talk about things you really don't want to hear or you don't want to admit to.

Hanson said the reason he accepted the invitation to speak is he came to help.... to save a farm and my only pupose is to save a family.

When you talk about family ownership succession, it is extremely difficult because of two things -

#1 Farm folks are very private people. You hold your cards close to your chest. What we own, what we have, and what we do is nobody's business. We want to know what the neighbors have but we don't want those neighbors meddling in our affairs, do we."

"When you talk about family ownership succession, pretty soon you are going to have to talk about what it's worth, what you own, and what's involved. How it is going to be divided, how it is going to be passed on."

"And when you do that, farm folks get really quiet. Do I want everyone in the family knowing what I have?...what I've done?"

"That family will is one big secret. If you ask those families what they've done, many times you get the answer - 'It's taken care of!' 'Nothing to worry about.' or better yet, 'you'll find out soon enough what I've done."

#2 "Many times parents will never admit it or talk about it, but sometimes parents have favorites. Parents have already chosen.... Some kids never do anything wrong, and some kids never do anything right."

You will hear jealously, bitterness, and why I wasn't told.

Fourteen years ago, I had to come back home to Illinois to bury my father.

"My father is the one who came home and stayed after the war and worked and sacrificed and did everything possible.

But when Hanson's grandparents passed, the other three children didn't see it that way, and his Uncle Gary who was the executive of his grandmother's estate, made sure that my dad never got that farm, and that farm was sold to the neighbor without my dad ever knowing.

And I still remember the day the County Sheriff and two armed deputies came to the farm to evict us.

I still remember that day. And my dad lost everything...everything. And when I drove back to Nebraska each single mile I thought about my dad. And I started on my project.

The question is without a family farm and the parents willingness to help, what is a young person's chances today?

"I love farming, but I think this all starts with family. So the question is, "Is there a succession plan in place to protect that family legacy."

"I am not just talking about a family will but a succession plan where that family name on the mail box will never never change. That's a legacy folks."

"If something unexpected happens today, does everyone in the family already know and understand what happens tomorrow?"

Dr. Hanson went on to explain many of the problems and ask families to be proactive in making a plan and letting people know.

"Life will happen. We won't be here forever."

Dr. Hanson has earned 31 university and national recognitions, honored as the University of Nebraska Educator of the Year, and is a well-known farm conflict and succession planning counselor and speaker.

It is easy to see what his passionate talk "Keeping Your Farm in the Family for the Next Generation," is his strong focus of topic.

The evening also included important trends in agriculture, the annual commodity price challenge, door prizes and more.

Bank customers and anyone with an interest in agriculture, was invited and encouraged to attend with their spouse for the free full course dinner, all compliments of the First State Bank of Illinois.