Changing Hands story Series
Beginning in January 2019, Rogue Farm Corps is curating compelling stories of how transitioning land from one generation to the next is possible. The Changing Hands Story Series will highlight a variety of agricultural operations from the Pacific Northwest.
The stories we often hear are about families who lose the farm after the elder farmer passes away. But there are farmers and ranchers who have found creative ways to pass their legacies to the next generation. There are also many resources designed to help farmers with succession and business planning.
Here, we share inspirational stories of farmland transition within families and to non-family members alike. These stories will touch on the use of innovative tools like working lands easements and conservation incentives as part of the solution. And we’ll shine a light on skilled aspiring farmers and ranchers who are ready and able to take over a business.
These stories are also running in the Capital Press - the west's most prominent agricultural publication, with circulation to California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
If you have a story to share, please get in touch.
We meet Antonio and Alan in the middle of their story, in the middle of transitioning Riverhill Farm. Antonio, “I was attracted to the beauty of the place, the thoughtfulness of Alan and Jo, the quality of the produce, and the community.” As the new operator at Riverhill Farm, Antonio Garza is already showing a deep understanding of what Alan Haight and Jo McProud worked so hard to create.
“In 2014, my son Andy called me and said, ‘I want to come home and farm,’” says Dave Baldus. For Dave, it was essential that Andy kept his day job until they had a plan. “I needed Andy to know what he was coming home to.” Since that pivotal phone call, the Balduses have embraced one-on-one transition planning sessions, learned to communicate better as a family, and created a working partnership to set up B4 Sunrise for the future.
“When it comes to transferring a farm to the next generation, success is temporary, but failure is permanent,” says Ryan McCarthey of Dungeness Creamery. Their ongoing success is the result of a creative shift in their business model, a cash infusion from selling the property’s development rights, training, and a little bit of fate.
“We are constantly asking ourselves—how can we do our best?” says Jana McClelland. Constant evolution, learning, and care for the land are at the heart of success for McClelland Dairy. It is reflected in day-to-day operations, as well as the transition of the farm from father to daughter through partnership.
The root cellar at Wild Hare Organic Farm is finally full this year. After two years, “we could grow through winter with confidence and load up the root cellar without worry, because it was fully ours,” says Katie Green. In 2017, Mark and Katie Green purchased a 21-acre farm just outside of Tacoma from local sustainable farming leaders, Dick and Terry Carkner—and the deal they struck ensured it will stay a farm forever.
Even if you’re ready to retire, it can be difficult to identify a successor. And no matter who the next generation is, it can be emotionally, logistically, and financially challenging to transfer the land and business to the next generation.
“It’s the ultimate compliment to have your child take over the family farm,” says Warren Harper, of Harper Farms in Junction City, Oregon, the heart of the Willamette Valley. Bryan Harper has done just that—he’s stepped up to be the fifth generation at the helm of Harper Farms.
“I remember when we finalized the conservation easement on our farm, friends said, ‘are you crazy, do you know what that property would be worth if it was subdivided?’ Our response is, and has always been, money isn’t everything, they don’t make land any more, and we wanted to protect the legacy of the natural open space, and resources that are here.”