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Thinking of Retiring from the Ranch? — Think again

Quensel Observer columnist David Zirnhelt examines what leaving ranch life could look like
Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Just in case you as a ranch owner are thinking of retiring, selling, or passing on the ranch to another generation, here are some of my thoughts.

We started the discussions about the future of our place and the ability for us to continue to reside alongside on land and along side the people with whom we built the place.

Of course, if you want the people you care about to live on or close to the land you love, then they have to be involved in the discussion. All families have a little baggage from the past, but that doesn’t have to mean you can’t resolve the issues and get over the feelings those involved have.

Needless to say, I am raising this issue because you won’t want desperation to set in as time ticks on and our (your) mental facilities dull a little. Some farm/ business advisors say when you first hatch your business idea or “plan” or you take over the reins of the ranch from the previous owner, then you ought to build a succession plan into the business.

If part of your legacy is to help keep a ranching operation going, then you need to keep in mind that the successive generation needs time to build their dream when they are young enough to have the energy and find the finances to invest in that dream.

Something might happen to you or disaster might befall you. Worse, ill health may force the issue of letting go—willingly or unwillingly. If you want the transition of your place to be smooth and free from inherited problems, then you are best do more than just will the place to some one or several successors.

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Or, you can just sell or gift the place and ride off into the sunset. That is, if you have a “horse” that you can mount and which can carry your feeble bag of bones and flesh, hopefully with mind and soul intact, where ever you want to go.

As our children and grandchildren know, my wish is to die in the manner of my uncle who died on this place in the small horse barn as he was tending to the resident stallion. A massive heart attack sounded his death knell.

One can’t plan for all eventualities, but one can try to create a culture of care within the family and set aside some wealth to help provide for one’s own care.

Barring being isolated in a home, as so many elders have been during the pandemic, unable to see and touch your loved ones as you pass, it is hopeful to think that if you linger in passing on, you will have the company of loved ones.

Isn’t this a bit morbid?

Not for me. I think that we can achieve, with our family, a mutual plan that works for us all. Three generations are involved in one way or another. The intent is clear: look after the land, thrive and care for those around you. Understand and hold other values than just real estate.

This fall the Cariboo Cattlemen and Farm Credit Corporation will host the second of two workshops on Succession Planning involving legal; and accounting resources. Get on the mailing list from the local Ministry of Agriculture as I have counselled before so you can stay tuned.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

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