Farms face uncertain futures over questions of succession

Published: Aug. 11, 2023 at 10:31 PM CDT
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STRATFORD, Wis. (WSAW) - Many farmers are struggling to decide when is the right time to sell the family farm and who will take over when they retire. The process to transfer a farm usually takes six months to a year.

The very first step is setting goals. UW-Extension in Marathon County offers a support group for this.

Many things are taken into consideration when it comes to farm successors. This includes the financial situation of the family on the farm.

“The general population is three or four generations removed from farming,” says Heather Schlesser, a dairy agent with UW-Extension-Marathon County.

“If a farm doesn’t find a successor, then they end up selling the animals,” said Schlesser.

The Spindler family has made some changes over the years to its farm to keep it going. Some of those include a robotic milking station for cows. Those machines can cost more than $1 million dollars.

“You have to generate revenue,” says farmer Kobey Spindler.

“Some of the changes we are making on our farm will make it possible for our kids to keep farming if they choose to,” says Trine Spindler.

Mike Sabel serves as a mediator that helps families with the farm succession process. He has helped more than a dozen families including the Spindlers. “Having a neutral party to work with them, bring these different characteristics out, is really important, and I get great satisfaction in doing it,” said Sabel.

Kobey Spindler took over his family farm that goes back over 100 years.

He became the fourth generation farm owner in 2012. “It’s a family farm, but it’s still a business we are trying to make the best decisions to help us and have something that is sellable,” said Spindler.