Stew Slater email@example.com
According to Mark Junkin, there are two major patterns of decision-making that develop over the years on most Ontario farms, leading up to the day the farm passes from one generation to the next.
In one, the older generation has given the next generation the tools necessary to run the operation but, when the time comes, it’s too hard for them to hand over the reigns.
In the other, no decision-making skills are passed on and, when succession becomes reality, the next generation is left floundering.
In theory, it all sounds like something that could be dealt with over a few mornings around the kitchen table. But in practice, Junkin knows that’s nowhere near the truth.
“When I had to take a gun off a farm in Perth County, I realized that the way succession planning is done has to change,” he said.
Junkin, a Mitchell-based farm succession consultant, has just released a new book and audiobook entitled “Farming with Family Ain’t Always Easy: Changing How Your Family Business Deals with Change.”
Junkin has taken an unorthodox path to helping hundreds of Southwestern Ontario farm families pass on their operations to the succeeding generation. Having given up on a dream of taking over a family farm near Bobcaygeon (the property was eventually sold), he dabbled in running a Guelph country bar, got himself a marriage officiant license, and signed on to write a weekly succession-themed column for the Regional Country News, a monthly farm newspaper published by Metroland Media.
Through all these pursuits, he built a name for himself as someone farm families could trust as an objective voice.
This is Junkin’s second book. But during a recent interview it became immediately apparent that it hasn’t been easy getting to this point.
Being the person farmers are referred to by accounting firms when things are just getting too hard to handle for the formally-trained bankers and mediators, Junkin has found himself in some pretty tough situations — like the time he removed the gun from the farm.
He added that sometimes, writing his most recent book has made things even worse. The stress of meeting deadlines, combined with the stress of thinking about some pretty fraught scenarios for his succession clients, has made for some sleepless nights.
Still, the interaction with farmers has been key to getting the book right. Junkin said it started with a draft of 250 pages and, through feedback from the people he has repeatedly asked to read it, it now sits at 75 pages. He has left the CD in the cab of tractors as he has left his clients’ farms, and they’ve got back to him with suggestions about what they liked and didn’t like.
One thing that got him through the stress, more than anything, was getting hired as a relief milker at Fred Koskamp’s Avonton-area water buffalo milking operation.
“Water buffalo are my yoga,” he laughed.
Junkin said it will all be worth it if he knows farmers are reading or listening to his book.
“I know a lot of farmers might only read one or two books in a year, but I want this to be the one,” he said. He added he believes things are changing in Ontario — that
“people are now calling me up, wanting to be pro-active.”
The book is available online at www.amazon.com or www.itunes.com. You can meet Junkin in person at a series of book signing/seminar events scheduled in the days leading up to Christmas, all at 8 p.m. They are: Monday, Dec. 16 at the OMAFRA office in Woodstock; Tuesday, Dec. 17 at the Perth County Federation of Agriculture hall in Rostock; Wednesday, Dec. 18 at the municipal building in Exeter; and Thursday, Dec. 19 at the Wingham Complex in Wingham.