Seven years of careful planning has led to Ben and Kirsty Harm taking over the family farm at Mt Sylvia in the fertile Lockyer Valley, from Ben’s parents Trevor and Debbie.
Trevor and Debbie have been working with Synergy Accountants for 34 years, and with their assistance Trevor’s transition to retirement and the handover of the farm (where they primarily produce cauliflower, cabbage and pumpkin) to Ben and Kirsty just over 12 months ago has been seamless.
Kirsty said when the succession plan was first put into action Ben received five per cent of the farm profit.
“In that time we slowly implemented different tasks into the operation like spraying, bookkeeping, management of crops and managing the workers,” Kirsty said.
“The share in the business profits from the farm increased to 25 per cent two years ago, which has enabled us to take over the running of our own business, Benick Farms Australia, from July 1 this year,” she said.
“During this period we worked with Trevor and Debbie to reduce the debt on the property so the banks would allow us to start farming in our own right.”
She said with the help of Synergy Accountants they met with their bank manager and applied for a loan to purchase the farm in their own name, which was successful.
“Synergy have been with us the whole way. If we had any questions no matter what time of the day or night our calls were answered.”
Strategic forward planning and a big-picture approach has included assistance with bank, equipment lease and finance agreements, integration of planting programmes into cash flow budgets, succession agreements, Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney.
“We are now paying our own mortgage on our farm and leasing Trevor and Debbie’s farm as part of the succession plan.”
Having trusted advisers on hand who understand the rural sector and talk their language has proven invaluable for this young couple, and a continuous conversation over many years has ensured the family’s balance of risk has been managed to ensure a manageable debt-to-equity ratio.
“The road to succession planning has had its good days and its bad, the main thing is to keep the communication open.
“To succeed with the planning you need a good team behind you. A good accountant, financial planner, solicitor and bank manager is number one priority. We have had the best advice given to us.
“Without their assistance and Trevor and Debbie’s knowledge and experience, we would have been two very confused people.”
Ben has grown up on the farm, learning the skills and tools necessary to run a successful business on the land. The need for solid forward planning includes relying on long term planting guides to determine the ordering of seedlings 12 months in advance, in turn ensuring healthy cash flow.
With Kirsty handling the management of the business side including the bookkeeping, the farm is well and truly in capable hands.
“We’ve had a great start to the year. It has been one of the best years for the farmers situated in the Lockyer Valley for a long time.
She said the biggest operational challenge has been finding good help.
“When we’re so dedicated to the crops it’s hard to find someone whose soul is in farming. That’s why family plays a huge part on many farms.
“The way of the future is for young farmers to work hard and use the knowledge of the older generation.”
The encouragement of the Synergy team has ensured Trevor has felt confident to step out of the business slowly and let the next generation continue the success.
“I think for them there were a few nerves but a sense of relief also.
“They know the big responsibilities that are in front of us and that’s why they are still here. A farmer never fully leaves the farm.”
Kirsty said they use all the same business houses, produce markets, agronomists, transport and have kept basically the same planting programme – adjusting when needed – that Trevor and Debbie had in place.
“By doing this it has been a smoother transition. We are dealing with people who have known us our whole life in the Lockyer Valley."
To see how Synergy Accountants can help you, please call (07) 4632 4588 or visit http://synergyaccountants.com.au/