'Young people should be in control of their own destiny'

Putting plans in place to hand a family farm onto the next generation can be complicated - treating everyone fairly while ensuring a secure future for the family business may be fraught with difficulties.

Here, one farmer describes how his family has tackled the tricky subject of succession planning.

Roger Mercer is a fourth generation farmer who manages a 2,200ha mixed farm estate in Staffordshire. In planning for the future of the family business, Roger encouraged his sons Robert, Alec and Tom to set up their own enterprises when they were in their mid-20s.

As a result, Robert now runs a free-range pork business, while Alec produces free-range poultry, both from the home farm. Tom's London-based enterprise sells oat-based breakfast products.

“Robert and Alec hold 75% of their own business and the rest of the family shares 25%, to spread the risk,” says Roger. “It helps build the family pot so that when succession does happen, there is more to share between family members.”

The family holds quarterly board meetings, with an independent chairman, and keeps most of the land in trust, separating business and assets.

Offering advice to other farmers considering their succession plans, Roger says: “Many of the older generation fear handing over the reins, but you don’t have to pass over the farm and disappear into the sunset.

“I believe young people are better in control of their own destiny as soon as possible. The way to drive a family business forward is to allow the individual to express their potential.”

Download your free Keeping the Farm in the Family guide

We’ve created an expert succession planning guide – designed for farming families to offer practical advice and useful solutions to help protect your farm for generations to come. The guide contains essential tips and expert advice, plus we’ve included real life experiences from our farming customers so you can discover how they’ve tackled the complex issue of succession planning.

'A guide to successfully keeping the farm in the family' [PDF: 2.8MB]