Farm Bureau program will address change on the farm.

April 4, 2017

ohse_combine_john_deereFarm Bureau program will address change on the farm.

Featuring speakers Kevin Eikenberry and Carlos Alvarado.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Kevin Eikenberry

Kevin Eikenberry

AMBER TOWNSHIP — The agricultural industry has seen some major changes over the past several decades, but one of the things that remains a constant is the fact that the majority of farms in the United States are family owned. The Mason County Farm Bureau and Mason County Press are presenting a program that will address the topics of dealing with change on the family farm, including developing a succession plan. On April 18, world-renowned leadership speaker Kevin Eikenberry and Ludington-based attorney Carlos Alvarado will be the key speakers for the program “This Ain’t Your Grandfather’s Farm.”

Kevin grew up in Custer Township and graduate from Mason County Central High School in 1980. He is a graduate of Purdue University and owner of the Eikenberry Group, a leadership consulting firm based in Indianapolis. Kevin has been ranked as one of the top 100 speakers in the world. He and his associates serve several of the world’s leading corporations.

Carlos practices law in Ludington and has more than 35 years of experience in the areas of corporate and commercial law. He began practicing law in his native country of Chile, and later obtained his license to practice law in Michigan. Carlos’ practice has expanded its corporate focus to include business formation, contract review, corporate management and succession, real estate, and immigration. 

Carlos Alvarado

Carlos Alvarado

The April 18 event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express, 5323 W. US 10-31 and will include lunch. Cost is $35 per person.

MCP talked to Kevin and Carlos about the program:

MCP: Why is it important for farmers to plan for the future?

CA: While planning is not a realm just limited to farmers, farming poses challenges that makes planning an imperative.  The ownership structure, which often involves family members, creates a mix between personal property and enterprise assets. The risks associated with farming are not only those inherent to any business, but also the physical demands to keep up the operation going represents a constant concern for having contingency plans.

MCP: What is the biggest mistake you see land and property owners make in regards to future planning?

CA: Not to plan. Rely on a will document, or create a very detailed trust that makes it impossible to decipher the wishes of the testator.

MCP: Taxes and property values are a major concern with farmers when dealing with succession, is this a legitimate concern?

CA: To some extent. If planning to manage the tax implications for the heirs or successors is a concern, there are several vehicles that may, depending on everyone’ s circumstances, alleviate their concerns.  Property value is a concern when it comes to establishing buy-sell agreements.  Trying to predict the value the property is going to have 10, 20 years from now, could be challenging, especially when dealing with assets such as crop farming.

MCP: You grew up in Mason County and you have educational and career experience in the agriculture industry. Talk about how farmers deal with change and how they should deal with change.

KE: Farmers are people – so they deal with change like everyone, for the most part.  We all need to see a picture of the change, we need to know why the change matters and we need to know how to make the change happen. Farmers’ unique perspective comes from the fact that they deal daily with changes completely out of their control – like the weather. To the point of the upcoming session, changes that occur over long periods of time are sometimes hard to recognize – like the change needed to transition from one generation to the next. I’m looking forward to discussing this at length.

MCP: Again, growing up in Mason County, what are your observations of the local farm community and your advice to farmers about dealing with change and planning for the future?

KE: The future keeps coming, and we must be flexible and adaptable to address it.  I think the farmers here understand that at a deeper and broader level than in many parts of the country. I went to college at Purdue, and one of the insights I gained then was that while the farmers in parts of Indiana then (and now) farmed more acres, that farming here is in many ways harder and requires more skills than in the corn belt. For a crop like corn, yields aren’t as high, so making a margin work is even more challenging than in other places.  But beyond that, farmers here aren’t just choosing between two or three crops.  If you think about the changes in agriculture here in Mason County in my lifetime – they are staggering.  When I was a kid, every farm had a few cows, we couldn’t spell asparagus, and vegetables were grown in the garden.  I believe my Dad (Phil Eikenberry) was the first to plant soybeans here – and people thought he was crazy – now, you see them everywhere.

So I believe farmers are open to change and willing to change – but that doesn’t always make it easy.

To register for this program, email: or call Rob Alway at 231-757-3202. Checks may be payable to Mason County Farm Bureau.

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