Clare O’Keeffe, a third-generation dairy farmer; tutor and a certified mediator will discuss family farm succession planning at Farmex - The Business of Farming - on Friday (October 12th) at The Hub, Cíllin Hill, Kilkenny.
She will provide information to agri conference attendees about the three dreaded d’s “the realities of Irish life” - divorce; death and dementia.
“Most of us are going to have at least two out of the three. Death is definitely ahead of all of us and either divorce or dementia will have an impact on our families.” Clare O’Keeffe told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
“If either of these realities come to the farmer or within the farm family, people need to know how to cope with those circumstances.”
She hopes to make attendees aware of the ways in which a relationship breakdown with the asset owner or the potential successor can impact the farm.
She stressed the importance of staging this conversation in advance of a new member entering the farm.
“Traditionally, there was a term of a dowry, so we need to identify what is considered a dowry in a new relationship. Is it someone’s skill-set to earn an income off the farm?” Clare said.
“There is an increase in dementia and people must question if this makes a major impact on one’s ability to work.”
She will also touch on topics including how appreciation is shown for work and how respected is conveyed.
Clare will also discuss the mindset of the retired farmer and how one identifies themselves as a retired farmer, highlighting that this can be a mental block for some individuals.
Clare has extensive knowledge when it comes to dealing with all of the aforementioned matters as the founder of Succession Ireland and a 2006 Nuffield Scholar.
Succession Ireland evolved from Clare’s study of “the intergenerational transfer of family farms and assets” - a field that she explored as part of her Nuffield Scholarship in 2006.
It was during this time that she travelled to Argentina; Australia; Brazil; China; Canada; Holland and the U.K - a total of 29,500 air miles.
Hailing from near Mallow, West Cork, Clare trained as a succession facilitator and planner under the guidance of Lyn Skyes when she was in Australia.
During Clare’s time in Australia, the growing need for businesses that help to design succession plans stemmed from the farmer’s needs as a result of financial and social consequences of drought and the sudden deregulation of milk quotas.
“The Australian banks didn’t show much mercy at that stage and from then, succession plan began to change because the rate of suicide went up.
“This meant that many widows had to sort out disastrous situations without succession plans,” Clare explained.
Clare utilised this first-hand experience to create her own business in 2008, which is based on the model used by Australian farmers.
Prior to this, Clare studied a honours degree in Economics & Sociology from the National University of Ireland, Cork; a diploma in Rural Isolation and Counselling skills and a diploma in Social and Community Studies.
She also worked as an Agricultural Development Officer with a Rural Development Organisation from 2005-2007.
Through Succession Ireland, Clare offers a mediator service that focuses mainly on family farms and the transition from one generation to the next.
The business also provides family business succession planning; mediation for separating couple and inheritance mediation - contesting a will.
“We focus on what is going on inside the farm gate - the internal challenges. One thing that we all know for sure is the day will come that we will depart this world with nothing - that’s a definite.”
Clare revealed that in recent years there has been an increase in the number of young people are availing of the services offered by the business, with interest from those that are actively involved in expansion programmes or in the operation of their own farm enterprises.
“They are being more proactive in looking at their succession option and coming to the realisation of what would happen if they were taken out of the picture prematurely.”
“There are several external challenges facing farmers including weather and price volatility but we focus on the internal challenges and one such conversation is around the progression of the farm business - it is a very valuable asset.”
The meditator highlighted that changes in social and family structures and differences that exist in each family and farm business can prove to be challenging to find a suitable model.
She said that the three areas that need resolution for most families are retaining an adequate income for the retirees; managing the transition and treating all children fairly.
She said that it is important to understand that fairly is different to equally, to avoid resentment amongst the family members going forward.
“The main reason that people contact us is that they want to maintain family harmony and want relationships to be maintained into the future,” Clare concluded.
Clare O’Keefe will be part of the succession on family farm panel, which will be chaired by Derry Dillion - AgriI & Rural Affairs Managers of Macra na Feirme and past President of the ASA.
FARMEX - the business of farming - is a new one-day conference and trade exhibition on how to increase profitability; sustainability and add long-term equity value to the family farm business.
The DAFM KT-approved event for livestock and tillage farmers will take place at The Hub, Kilkenny on Friday, October 12th.
The organisers are hoping to welcome 3,000 attendees including - Agribusiness; advisory and educational personnel; family farmers; farm managers and Ag students; farm managers; farm contractors and Agri-Food Science students to this event.
Tickets are €20 for adults, €10 for agri-students and €40 for a family (two adults & children). Car parking is free and one can avail low-cost group travel via Bus Eireann at only €15/20 per person return.Book online at - www.farmex.ie - and save €5 on your ticket, fill in a short questionnaire and enter a free draw for €2,500 in Agri input & services prizes.
Image source: Succession Ireland