Vast majority of farms in Nova Scotia have no succession plan: census


Richard Melvin spent a lot of time thinking about the future of his farm.

He grows fresh vegetables like cauliflower and romaine lettuce on his 200-hectare farm. Over time, he drew up a succession plan, outlining the details of passing on his farm.

But Melvin, who is 67, is in the vast minority.

According to 2021 Census of Agriculture, only about eight percent of farms in Nova Scotia have a succession plan. The province also has the oldest farm operators in the country with an average age of 58.2 years.

Melvin said these statistics are concerning.

“This tells us that in a five to 10 year period there will be a significant retirement or transition of our current farmers into retirement which will leave a huge void in our human resource capacity to manage these farms. “, did he declare. said.

Melvin’s farm grows vegetables like cauliflower, green onions and romaine lettuce. (Mark Crosby/Radio Canada)

Melvin said older farmers can often deny getting older and having to pass the farm on to the next generation. There can be awkward conversations about family dynamics and the financial viability of the farm.

The situation can be complicated if a farm operator dies without a succession plan.

“The family left behind is left with a Pandora’s box of legalities and tax issues and probably tough interpersonal dynamics to sort out,” Melvin said.

“It puts everyone in an even more stressful situation than they really should be.”

Philip Keddy agrees that finances are one of the biggest challenges for farmers when developing a succession plan.

As an agricultural producer in the Annapolis Valley, he has seen firsthand how profit margins for farmers are shrinking and supply costs are rising.

Philip Keddy said inflation and the rising cost of supplies made long-term planning on farms even more difficult. (Submitted by Philip Keddy)

“Until there’s stability around farm and farmer prices and incomes, it’s going to be hard for them to imagine that their kids might be part of this operation,” Keddy said. .

“And maybe that’s why you see such old farmers staying on the farm for so long because the younger generation don’t see the return to the farm and they’re not as willing to take on that. role so quickly.”

He said the agriculture industry knows succession is a problem. In the 2021 census, the total number of farms in Nova Scotia was down more than 20% from five years earlier.

“Unfortunately, we are going to lose a lot of farmers over the next 10 years without any succession plan. And we are not going to get those farmers back. So we are aware, but we don’t know how to address the bigger issues that arise,” Keddy said.

Tim Marsh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. He has a farm near Newport. (Mark Crosby/Radio Canada)

Tim Marsh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, said succession plans go a long way to promoting communication among farm families.

“Probably one of the best things farmers can do is talk to the next generation from day one and be open and honest about how the farm is doing,” he said.

Marsh said there are online resources and tools available to help farmers through the sometimes long and confusing process of developing a succession plan.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Marsh said.

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