November 22, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

One in 10 farms in Kentucky are operated by women; some have long been active managers and others suddenly find themselves responsible for the farm when their spouses die or are disabled. Recognizing the difficult position in which some women may suddenly find themselves, organizers of a recent Women in Agriculture meeting at Columbus-Belmont State Park made it one of the main topics on the agenda.

“Men die younger than women so typically what happens is the wife is left to manage the farm,” said Suzanne Badenhop, family resource management specialist with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. “Some may know what to do, some may not.”

Equipping women with the information needed to transition from farm wife to farm owner or operator just makes sense, said Sara Bogle, Fulton County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. 

“We think people are kind of lost when a spouse or parent dies and they are left to make decisions, so we thought this group needed the information,” Bogle said “We hope this arms them with some information so they can make wise choices.”

Badenhop’s message was aimed at women but can be used for anyone as they consider how to transition the farm. Making plans to transition the farm when a parent dies or when a couple retires is also important but is often put off until there is no time to plan. Preparing for this inevitable time can not only ease the stress involved but can also give the next generation the peace of mind in knowing what will become of the farm. 

“Everybody should have an estate plan, and if you own a farm or are going to inherit a farm you need to communicate so there are no surprises, and (inheritors) know what is coming,” Badenhop said. “Whatever your plan is, you need to think it through and make sure it meets your goals and what you want done.”

Badenhop said some things to consider are: Who will manage the farm? Are you going to farm it or rent it to someone else to farm? Do you want to sell it? If you sell, what are the tax consequences? Are there other heirs that could force you to sell? Does a child plan to take over the farm? 

Many of these questions can be answered before someone is left to make these decisions on his own. Farmers can turn to attorneys, accountants, financial planners and Extension personnel to help them manage their farms today and as they look to transition it to someone else.

Talking to these professionals can help ensure that heirs who remain on the farm and off-farm heirs are treated fairly without being forced to sell. Some options can include taking a life insurance policy to provide an inheritance for off-farm heirs while deeding the land to the one who remains on the farm.

Gifting of the land in increments can also be an option that can be discussed with professionals. Additionally, these professionals can help farmers understand and reduce possible tax implications of transitioning the farm.

For spouses or anyone who inherits a farm and decides to keep farming, Badenhop said it is important to get to know the local Farm Service Agency, which handles a variety of federal farm programs, and local Extension professionals.


Suzanne Badenhop, 859-257-1812, Sara Bogle, 270-236-2351