Selling your family farm is a very emotional time
This could be the most difficult subject anybody could try to tackle in a blog post. Just putting it bluntly, it is a horrible experience to sell the family farm.
Over the years we have handled so many sales of family farms that I can see patterns today that maybe were not so obvious earlier in our company history. Today I notice that as people go through our land auction process they often start scared and anxious about the process, but as they near the auction date they become more relaxed and adjusted to the idea that the family farm will change hands. During this time we often get an opportunity to learn more about each other and one of my favorite things is to learn more about the people that owned the farm, the personal stories and special memories of the farm.
That might seem like advertising but I truly do feel more closely connected when sellers will share those things with me and I can also see that it reduces their anxiety. I’ve shared some very special moments with families at kitchen tables across the countryside as people signed the original listing agreements - as well as the moment they signed the papers with the buyer and again at the closing. Every client is different but many situations are very similar. I want to share the emotions I've experienced from hundreds of farm families over the years, and how they've dealt with them and ultimately overcome:
1. Don't hide your emotions
When you commit to selling the family farm, you have no reason to hide that it is difficult, or that you don’t want to do it, or that you wish it was not happening. Its my job to safely guide you through the process and use my experience and skill to help get it done in a way that satisfies you. At the same time, I’m not a cold-hearted person that can’t share in your grief. I feel it often and I always think its important to talk about how you really feel. Hiding the fact that its difficult or having to be tough only makes the process harder. Share with your most trusted family or friends. Don’t be afraid to say, “This is really hard to go through.” And don’t be afraid to tell your auctioneer what aspects are difficult to communicate about.
2. Your farm's story is important
There is a story behind every farm. For some, it was just "dad's investment". For others, it was the place they were raised, or the place they visited Grandma and Grandpa. The farm is a part of the family.
Have you ever heard the song “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel from 1964? The line, “People writing songs that voices never share” has always reminded me of my job as an auctioneer. I am always interested in my clients and I keep an eye on them so that I might be more valuable to them in ways beyond auctioneering. We usually get to know each other pretty well. We talk frequently and for some it becomes necessary for me to ask, “How are you doing with all of this?”
In one case I was surprised by a woman who was the executor of her dad's estate. She said, “Jason I met you because I read a lot of your writing on the Internet, and I actually found peace in doing the same thing. I liked the way you write about things and at the beginning of this process I started to make notes about memories from the farm. Eventually, I ended up with over 40 pages of stories and memories. While the farm is moving on, I feel better to have written everything on paper so that one day when I’m gone those stories and memories can’t die.”
I really liked that idea and I believe it can be helpful to other families as well. If you like to write, committing your memories and stories to paper can be a very therapeutic activity. Even more so, it allows you greater ability to share them.
3. Forget Factory Farming
I’ve had clients come to me incredibly afraid of things they’d seen in social media or heard from others about factory farms or foreign entities buying up land. Their fear is that their farm will fall into hands that are dissimilar from their family in respect for the land. Much of the information in circulation about “factory farms” is often false information in a commercial war between conventional versus modern natural products. That war for market share has raged for years and, unfortunately, changed the perception of what life is like in the country today. No doubt some things have changed - farms have become bigger and more efficient - but its not the horror show you would expect if you followed some of the wrong influencers in that space. I’ve lost track of the numbers of farms I’ve sold in my career, but I can say that to this day not even one of them have sold to a factory farm or a foreign entity.
4. Don't worry about the details
That’s my job. I’ve made it this far in farmland sales and auctions for several reasons and one of them is that our team is good at handling the details. Clients come to us all the time overwhelmed with the details, yet come out of the process saying, “I don’t know what I was so worried about”. Our team is made up of hand-picked professionals that love what they do and take a lot of pride in seeing our clients with less stress. Its a real focus for us to ensure we make the process as smooth and easy as possible and hundreds of clients have walked away saying the same thing- “I’m so glad we picked you guys do the sale”.
5. Knowledge is power
I have worked with clients that asked the same questions over and over … and you know what? I didn’t mind answering them over and over. I don’t mind people who need a bit more guidance or who may be forgetful, because I can recognize those are symptoms of grief. I recognize that often people experiencing grief can hear you but not comprehend with their full ability. At DreamDirt, we provide as much personal consultation as you want. We have many resources like our blog, ebooks and videos on Facebook that you can use to learn more about the process of selling land. I know that sellers who use that material are more confident and more informed and experience less stress because they better understand the process and safeguards at their disposal.
How do you start this entire process when you are so consumed with grief and sometimes just waking up is difficult? When you probably have just been through something very difficult and are looking at that mountain of details and you just don’t know where to start?
A simple phone call is all it takes. In fact you can text or email, too. We are happy to work with you whichever way you feel comfortable and make the process of selling easier. Reach out. We are here for you.
Jason Smith, CAI. (515) 537-6633