Farm crossroads

AMES, Iowa — Passing a farm operation to the next generation is usually one of the biggest and most challenging decisions farm families will ever make.

Many things are at stake — money, emotions, goals and lifestyles — and farm families need to think critically about where they’re at today and where they want to be in the future. Iowa State University Extension is planning a four-day Returning to the Farm Seminar on Jan. 10-11 and Feb. 14-15.

Led by a group of ISU Extension specialists, Iowa State University professionals and experienced farmers, the seminar is intended to help families with their succession planning, learn to communicate better and answer critical questions, according to an Extension news release.

“This is meant to be for farm families that are hoping to bring sons and daughters back to the operation,” said Dave Baker, director of the Beginning Farmer Center with ISU Extension.

Whole families

The program is intended for all family members, including students, parents and grandparents, farmers and non-farming heirs and all successors of a particular operation.

Through presentations and discussions, families will take a collective and individual look at their values, visions, missions, goals, strategies and tactics.

Baker said it’s important to understand that each family member has a different personality and style of communicating. By attending the seminar, participants will see and hear different viewpoints, held by other fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands who are facing some of the same challenges at other farms.

“Farmers have a family legacy that they want to maintain for the next generation,” Baker said. “We need to think about a successor to this successful business.”

Participants can potentially prevent future arguments and disputes and learn the skills to manage conflict when it arises.

Presenters include:

  • Dave Baker, director of the Beginning Farmer Center, ISU Extension and Outreach
  • Jay Harmon, interim associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach at Iowa State
  • John R. Baker, attorney at law, Beginning Farmer Center
  • Kelvin Leibold, farm management specialist, ISU Extension
  • Charles Brown, farm management specialist, ISU Extension
  • Melissa O'Rourke, farm management specialist, ISU Extension
  • Racheal Ruble, associate teaching professor, Communication Studies Program at Iowa State University
  • Patrick Hatting, farm management specialist, ISU Extension

Get the details

The Returning to the Farm Seminar will be held at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames.

The cost is $450 for up to four participants and $50 for each additional participant. The first six families who register will receive a $100 discount toward their registration. Registration includes lunches and course materials.

Iowa State students who participate can earn up to two credit hours, at no additional academic cost, if they are currently carrying a class load of 12 credits.

Registration is preferred by Jan. 5 to help with planning. To register, visit the More information is available at or by emailing Baker at

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