The Iowa Farm Bureau Feder­ation (IFBF) has launched a new program to assist Iowa farm families in developing business and succession plans to help keep farms thriving and intact as they are passed down from generation to generation.

The new program, called Take Root, will begin later this month with a series of pilot sessions around Iowa. The first Take Root pilot session will be in Eldora on Aug. 29 for families in Hardin, Franklin and Grundy counties. That will be followed by sessions in early September in Fort Dodge, Nashua and Creston. (See details at the end of this article or at

Take Root was established to help farm families work through a step-by-step process of developing a vision for their operation and a managed approach to the obstacles they face in farm growth and transition, said Nathan Katzer, IFBF farm business development manager. It will help multi-generation farm families develop plans to bring younger members into the ownership structure of the operation and will help families develop flexible contingencies for the uncertain times ahead, he said.

"Our aim is to provide the resources to help farm families build their own vision for the future, because creating a vision that’s bigger than you could grow by yourself is at the root of succession planning." Katzer said. "Every plan will be different because they will build on the strengths of each farm and be customized to their needs."

Craig Hill, IFBF president, said the Take Root program will fill a definite need and will help build on Iowa’s strength: family-owned farms. "Many Farm Bureau members have told the IFBF leadership and staff that succession planning is one of their biggest ongoing concerns," Hill said. "We want to help those transitions so that families can keep their farms and bring younger generations into the business in this volatile economic climate."

A clear need

Katzer said surveys of Iowa farms highlight a clear need for a program like Take Root.

While each year hundreds of Iowa farms celebrate Century Farm and Heritage Farm awards to commemorate operations that are held by the same family for 100 or 150 years, surveys show that most family ownerships don’t survive that long, Katzer noted.

"History shows us that only 30 percent of farms successfully make the transition from the first to the second generation and only 10 percent of those make it to the third generation." Katzer said. "Keeping Iowa farming legacies intact and ongoing is essential to the continued success of our state’s farming industry."

Katzer said that as IFBF worked to develop the Take Root program, it drew on the resources of Iowa State University and other experts around Iowa, including lenders, attorneys and others who have been helping farm families develop succession plans over the years. "The buy-in and support for Take Root has been strong, and together we can connect members with the best possible resources and assistance. As a support system for Iowa farm families, we’re all in this together," he said.

Member, county driven

The new IFBF program, Katz­er emphasized, will be driven by members and county Farm Bureaus, and will be tailored to the needs of a specific area. The program’s structure asks three to four neighboring county Farm Bureaus to host the Take Root program in a centralized location accessible to their members, he said.

Take Root sessions will consist of four workshops totaling 10 hours of commitment, as well as one-on-one consultation for families that participate, Katzer said.

The entire Take Root program is free for Iowa Farm Bureau members and is $45 for non-members.

A key to Take Root is its ongoing, production-oriented process in which participants have specific steps to accomplish after each session. "Producing actual evidence-in-hand results from your time invested is what our members want to experience. Instead of a stand-alone meeting, Take Root participants will utilize success stories and strategies for applying the knowledge to their own farm in the workshops," Katzer said. "Each participant will consider examples of approaches that real Iowa families have used for farm succession planning, creating business plans and growing their farm businesses."


In addition, Katzer said, the workshops will include assessments of communication and management styles, information that is especially important in multi-generational businesses.

"Each generation involved in a family business has a different set of expectations and assumptions regarding the others. Discussing a farming family’s behavior and working dynamic is essential to the successful outcome of farm transition or farm business management planning," Katzer said. "The program is a comprehensive approach to planning for a family farm’s continuation and growth from the roots up."

The four pilot sites for Take Root sessions are:

August 29 in Eldora for Frank­lin, Grundy and Hardin counties. The session, at the Fire House Grill, will begin at 6 p.m.

Sept. 9 in Fort Dodge for Cal­houn, Humboldt and Webster counties. The session, at the Web­ster County Farm Bureau office, will begin at 6 p.m.

Sept. 10 in Nashua for Bremer, Butler, Chickasaw, Floyd and Mitch­ell counties. The session, at the Iowa State University Borlaug Center, will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 12 in Creston for Adair, Adams, Taylor and Union counties. The session, at Southwestern Community College (Room 180) will begin at 6:30 p.m.

For more information on Take Root, go to or contact Katzer at 515-225-5494 or Farm Bureau members can access Katzer’s presentation at the 2013 IFBF Economic Summit in the members-only section of