Progression, not to be confused with perfection, is simply defined as “moving forward or onward,” or better yet, “happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.”
I read this quote by David Cooper, Progressive Cattlemen editor. And I wondered, “How many of us stop (or never start) working on ranch transition because the plan lacks perfection?”
When I think of ranch transition, I prefer Cooper’s definition of progression, where planning and transition is developed gradually in stages. Step by step. Broken down into manageable bits and pieces.
I think of the “Young Shuffle.”
Cliff Young, a retired potato farmer, unexpectedly won the 1983 Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon at age 61. Cliff showed up to the race in overalls and work boots. Albert Ernest Clifford Young was born in Australia into a large family. During the depression, his family was too poor to afford horses, so Cliff herded 2,000 head of sheep on foot.
In a runner’s eyes, the denim clad farmer never should have been allowed to start the race. But Cliff beat all those runners, averaging a mere 4 mph. Cliff didn’t run, he shuffled.
If you haven’t started or stopped halfway through the ranch transition process, is perfection in your way? “My kids won’t get along” or “I don’t have enough ranch to support everyone who wants to come back” thoughts enter your mind… what is the barrier to your plan? Perfection has stopped you.
Working with the Grazing Lands Coalition in Nebraska, we host generational transition meetings that include an experience agricultural attorney and a panel of producers who have experienced transition each in their own way. Over the years, a common theme of the panelists emerged. “We did the best we could with the circumstances we had.” Some families had the perfect plan, then life threw a curveball of poorly drafted legal documents or successors passed away too early from cancer.
Did these producers stop because their idea of perfection burst? They continued, step by step, to recreate a new plan, sometimes involving new partners, sometimes uninvolving family ground. The process was harder due to emotions, and sometimes a mediator helped to resolve issues. The transition never stopped, due to the determination of the producer to keep developing (sometimes gradually) the passing of the family ranch. They shuffled.
Cliff Young won the ultramarathon because he was slow and steady. He finished the multiday race without sleeping. He shuffled all day and shuffled all night. Cliff was crossed the finish line in first and set a new course record.
If you are struggling to finish your ranch transition, take hope in breaking the process into small steps. Small steps, if completed weekly, add up quickly over time.
Don’t let perfection stop you! Shuffle to the end!
by Bethany Johnston, NGLC Ranch Transition Task Manager