MANHATTAN, Kan. -- It's a proud day when a young man or woman graduates from college and announces he or she wants to come back to work on the family farm, but the euphoria can soon wear off when differences of opinion surface among family members about day-to-day operations.

Information and education about how to work through those differences and plan for the long-term economic and emotional health of operators of rural businesses, including farming operations, will be available in 2006 to Kansans.

The effort, "Helping Farm Families Manage Successful Businesses," will be fueled in part by $150,000 in partnership funding from the USDA's Risk Management Agency. The funding was awarded to Kansas State University Research and Extension and the Kansas Rural Center (KRC).



The organizations are developing workshops, a Web site, individual counseling and other tools to aid families as they work through issues and plan for the long-term growth of their businesses.

"Risk management in today's agriculture is about more than crop insurance," said Charlie Griffin, director of the K-State Family Center Programs for Workplace Solutions. Griffin, along with Jerry Jost of the KRC; Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Extension specialist in family systems; and Rodney Jones, Extension agricultural economist; are team leaders on the project.

Whether it's a family-owned 3,000-acre corn, soybean and wheat farm; a purebred cattle operation or a small business raising specialty crops, there's always a need for sound business planning, Jost said.

"For years, I've been telling farm families that they need to work to have their finances straight -- to strive to be the least-cost producer," said Jones, who as an Extension specialist, routinely gives presentations to producers about the economics of agricultural businesses. "But it's very seldom that a farming operation fails because they didn't have their finances right - they more often fail because of family problems - when family members don't see eye-to-eye and don't make decisions based on a sound economic strategy."

Initial workshops planned through the partnership will be held Jan. 18 in Wakeeney and Jan. 19 in Smith Center. More are being planned for later in the year.

Workshops to train those who work with the public, including Extension agents and clergymen, will also be held as part of the effort.

"We're integrating family and consumer sciences with agricultural economics," Olsen said.

Jost recalled a conversation he had with a farm family about the state of the family's business: "The wife just said to me, 'one of the things we really need is therapy.'"

Just like large, successful companies that have been a strong force in the corporate world for years, farm businesses need to have an "architect" -- someone who has the vision to look long-term at where the operation needs to go and then map out and implement its strategy to get there, Jost said.

More information on "Helping Farm Families Manage Successful Businesses" is available by calling the Kansas Rural Family Helpline at 1-866-327-6578 or e-mailing farmksu@humec.ksu.edu.



Kansas State Research and Extension news release.