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The average age of the US farmer is 58, and that means lots of farms are facing the succession challenge: the successful formal transfer of management (and ownership, in many cases) from one generation to the next. While the succession process is usually not easy and takes preparation, it is definitely worth it: bringing the next generation into the farm can bring a lot of real benefits to the family business:

Enthusiasm
Do you recall your feelings as you finished high school or college? You were eager to get started, open to tackling big challenges, willing to work long hours and excited about making a positive impact. Such youthful enthusiasm infuses an organization with energy, propelling high performance, quick responses, a willingness to take risks and the initiative to meet the demands of an uncertain and unpredictable business environment.
Evaluation
If you’ve been in business by yourself or with your siblings for very many years, you are accustomed to certain expectations about how the business should be managed. Your communication patterns, decision-making techniques, compensation and human resource tendencies – your way of doing things – is well established. Bringing new, younger generation perspectives into the business raises the (sometimes uncomfortable) question: Why do we do it this way? The opportunity to explore new stakeholders’ expectations for the business offers an opportunity to re-evaluate your culture and make improvements for the future.
Education
We are clearly at the dawn of a new day as it relates to agricultural technology on the farm. From seeds in the bag to sensors in the soil, from equipment in the field to imagery from the air, new ways to improve, understand, evaluate and make decisions for your business abound. While it takes the senior generation time, energy and attention to learn new technologies, the younger crowd – whatever their level of formal education – seems to be right at home in the digital age, easily and eagerly adapting to new tools. In many cases, technology plays a role in attracting younger farmers in the first place. Just like in any other industry, younger professionals look for opportunities to work with the latest technology to keep their skills evolving. Technology then helps retain these employees when you equip them with right tools to be more successful, and when these tools helps you make the way you manage your operation its biggest strength.
The next generation has a lot to learn. But they also have a lot to contribute. Capture the benefits of a successful generational transition – after all, this is what you’ve worked for all these years.

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By Lance Woodbury and Lauren Riensche
Today, more than 62% of principal family farm operators in the United States are over the age of 55. And while the running joke is that farmers never retire, it’s no joke that the transition process between generations can be difficult.
Fortunately, we’re in a brave new world—one where you can send a message across the globe in a single second, where robots take selfies on Mars, and where technology can smooth the management and transition of farming operations.
Managerial tools are coming to market with a mission in mind—assist farmers in the organization of their information and operations. These tools also have the potential to significantly help family farms in the midst of a generational transition.
Granular is currently developing Farm Succession Software that offers several key benefits for large farms and operations in the middle of farm succession. For example, if the younger generation is focused on operations, but the senior generation is focused on broader business issues, Granular can be part of a process to facilitate full visibility and understanding of both operational and strategic issues.
Farm management software can help the incoming generation gain a better view of the day-to-day business decisions the current owner makes, allowing for quicker and deeper learning and fewer mistakes. When knowledge sharing doesn’t happen, new operators can make assumptions—and worse, decisions—based on unverified and undocumented information. Granular offers a foundation for the knowledge-sharing process.
Granular allows for another important benefit: mobility. Because the Granular software is securely based in the cloud, generations can be miles apart physically and still have access to the same information. Farm partners can review the business activities and decisions, providing real-time monitoring and reassurance that things are going according to plan.
And mobility isn’t only useful in the family transition process; landowner relationships can also benefit from Granular’s data collection and storage. If a landowner is curious about what was planted in their field, when chemical or fertilizer applications were made, or when a tiling project was completed (or any other information recorded in the software), the answer could be instantly available to the extent the grower has inputted and shared the data.
Granular also can serve as a vehicle to professionalize a farming business during a transition period—a smart and strategic goal, especially for farms with multiple generations transitioning into management positions as farms are in an expansion mode. It sports an interface that farmers of all ages will find easy to learn and use. It includes features that will numb the headache of the multiple-entry system from which so many farmers have suffered. Granular works to integrate a great variety of record-keeping methods, like accounting programs, brokerage statements, elevator tickets, and computer spreadsheets. The software brings all the information farmers keep stored across their many platforms together in one place, where it can be easily read, processed, stored, and used in real-time.
Granular’s farm management software helps to promote knowledge transfer across generations. Farm partners can more quickly and easily learn from each other, managers can better communicate with their employees, and less time can be spent on information recording, reporting and storage, which means growers have more time to focus on the decisions necessary to achieve success in the next phase of growth.
It’s obvious that this company understands the challenges a business-oriented farmer faces today, and that they’re working hard live up to their motto: “The world’s most efficient farms run on Granular.”

About the Authors

Lance Woodbury provides facilitation, mediation, management consulting and family business advisory services in a variety of situations, including, succession planning, strategic management initiatives, estate planning, dispute mediation, and more. http://LanceWoodbury.com/
Lauren Riensche is senior at the University of Chicago and the sixth generation to live and work on her family farm, the Blue Diamond Farming Company, in Northeast Iowa. This summer, she is interning at Granular as a marketing strategist. http://bit.ly/LaurenRiensche

About Granular

Granular is a breakthrough software and analytics platform designed specifically for the professional farm. After launching commercially in July 2014, Granular is being adopted by producers nationwide who are investing to make their businesses more professional, efficient, and profitable. Granular helps these producers organize their operational, financial, and agronomic data into one system and use it to make better decisions. Granular is backed by leading venture investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, and Khosla Ventures.

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