Comment: Farmers need to look mortality in the eye and make a will
"Was there a will?" or "who got the place?" are questions which are still commonly (if quietly) discussed in the outer circle of mourners at the funeral of a farmer.
That these conversations take place show that, while farming has progressed on other fronts, its well known that the approach to succession can be stubbornly archaic.
A Macra survey from a few years back found that almost half the farmers aged over 50 hadn't identified a successor. Remarkably similar figures have been reported in other studies and jurisdictions.
When it comes to "successor identification" in a farming context, while it could mean that it hasn't been decided who is going to get the farm, it could just as easily mean that they haven't been told.
Either way, it suggests that there hasn't been any substantive discussion on the matter between the parties concerned.
Farm families who haven't experienced some kind of strain over inheriting land are as common as hen's teeth. It might just be a coolness at family functions. Or a split that widens down the generations.
It also seems there is very little chicanery which hasn't been done to acquire land. In my extended family, there is a story, from the mid-20th century, of a father who levered a farm out from under his own widowed daughter to give to his son, ie into the family name.
So why are farmers slow to consider a transition?