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Lenz Family transitioning family agribusiness

INDIANOLA, IA (DTN) – Power shifting in any business is often uncomfortable. Is the older generation ready to hand over some power and is the younger generation prepared to assume responsibility?

When the Lenz family of Wray, CO, wanted to bring the third generation into the farming operation, they aimed to make the transition as orderly as possible.

“We set the bar high and wanted to be sure as we could be that they would be able to contribute to our farm,” said Rod Lenz, one of the four middle-generation brothers now in their 50s. “All of my brothers and I have big families; 22 kids grew up on the farm. And we want to make sure they have an opportunity to enter agriculture, if they want.”



That’s also a challenge, since the cousins’ ages span 20 years from oldest to youngest and the first two newcomers to join the business were in-laws. So in addition to on-the-job management training, the Lenz succession plan emphasizes family values like mutual respect, inclusiveness and integrity. “And I can’t emphasize the family values enough,” Lenz added.

For management training, the Lenz family requires partners to have a college degree and an on-farm apprenticeship. The third-generation farmers must complete at least two years of college, two years working off the farm and two years working on the farm for wages.



“Then you have to make a formal presentation to the farm partners about what you can offer the operation. What are you bringing to make the pie bigger?” explained Lenz. “We talk to them all the way through the process. We’re open to working in a joint venture to help them start on their own, if that’s what they’d rather do.”

Marty Buoy, who is married to Mike Lenz’s daughter, Yvonne, became the first new partner in 2006. He was a mechanic at Caterpillar for seven years before joining the business. Now he’s the farm’s mechanic and works in the corn enterprise. He’s also continuing his management education. In January, he attended TEPAP, The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers, an intensive weeklong course designed to groom mid-career farm business owners and their successors.

“What makes the Lenz farm unique is we have no president or CEO. Each partner takes responsibility for different parts of the farm (purebred Charolais, potatoes, corn, finance, spraying) and makes the day-to-day decision for their respective area,” noted Buoy. “We have brief weekly employee meetings to go over the last week and discuss the coming week. Then, just the partners will meet and resolve any concerns or large decisions that need to be made. Each partner receives an equal vote and monthly draw. Profits are assigned at the end of the year according to ownership percentage.”

“My brothers and I learned what not to do in our first five years of farming,” said Lenz, who is in charge of the potato operation. “We were a train wreck waiting to happen, because we all thought we each knew best and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t agree with what each of us thought. We brothers all have the same values – a strong work ethic and integrity. But the four of us boys have very different personalities and interests.”

INDIANOLA, IA (DTN) – Power shifting in any business is often uncomfortable. Is the older generation ready to hand over some power and is the younger generation prepared to assume responsibility?

When the Lenz family of Wray, CO, wanted to bring the third generation into the farming operation, they aimed to make the transition as orderly as possible.

“We set the bar high and wanted to be sure as we could be that they would be able to contribute to our farm,” said Rod Lenz, one of the four middle-generation brothers now in their 50s. “All of my brothers and I have big families; 22 kids grew up on the farm. And we want to make sure they have an opportunity to enter agriculture, if they want.”

That’s also a challenge, since the cousins’ ages span 20 years from oldest to youngest and the first two newcomers to join the business were in-laws. So in addition to on-the-job management training, the Lenz succession plan emphasizes family values like mutual respect, inclusiveness and integrity. “And I can’t emphasize the family values enough,” Lenz added.

For management training, the Lenz family requires partners to have a college degree and an on-farm apprenticeship. The third-generation farmers must complete at least two years of college, two years working off the farm and two years working on the farm for wages.

“Then you have to make a formal presentation to the farm partners about what you can offer the operation. What are you bringing to make the pie bigger?” explained Lenz. “We talk to them all the way through the process. We’re open to working in a joint venture to help them start on their own, if that’s what they’d rather do.”

Marty Buoy, who is married to Mike Lenz’s daughter, Yvonne, became the first new partner in 2006. He was a mechanic at Caterpillar for seven years before joining the business. Now he’s the farm’s mechanic and works in the corn enterprise. He’s also continuing his management education. In January, he attended TEPAP, The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers, an intensive weeklong course designed to groom mid-career farm business owners and their successors.

“What makes the Lenz farm unique is we have no president or CEO. Each partner takes responsibility for different parts of the farm (purebred Charolais, potatoes, corn, finance, spraying) and makes the day-to-day decision for their respective area,” noted Buoy. “We have brief weekly employee meetings to go over the last week and discuss the coming week. Then, just the partners will meet and resolve any concerns or large decisions that need to be made. Each partner receives an equal vote and monthly draw. Profits are assigned at the end of the year according to ownership percentage.”

“My brothers and I learned what not to do in our first five years of farming,” said Lenz, who is in charge of the potato operation. “We were a train wreck waiting to happen, because we all thought we each knew best and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t agree with what each of us thought. We brothers all have the same values – a strong work ethic and integrity. But the four of us boys have very different personalities and interests.”

INDIANOLA, IA (DTN) – Power shifting in any business is often uncomfortable. Is the older generation ready to hand over some power and is the younger generation prepared to assume responsibility?

When the Lenz family of Wray, CO, wanted to bring the third generation into the farming operation, they aimed to make the transition as orderly as possible.

“We set the bar high and wanted to be sure as we could be that they would be able to contribute to our farm,” said Rod Lenz, one of the four middle-generation brothers now in their 50s. “All of my brothers and I have big families; 22 kids grew up on the farm. And we want to make sure they have an opportunity to enter agriculture, if they want.”

That’s also a challenge, since the cousins’ ages span 20 years from oldest to youngest and the first two newcomers to join the business were in-laws. So in addition to on-the-job management training, the Lenz succession plan emphasizes family values like mutual respect, inclusiveness and integrity. “And I can’t emphasize the family values enough,” Lenz added.

For management training, the Lenz family requires partners to have a college degree and an on-farm apprenticeship. The third-generation farmers must complete at least two years of college, two years working off the farm and two years working on the farm for wages.

“Then you have to make a formal presentation to the farm partners about what you can offer the operation. What are you bringing to make the pie bigger?” explained Lenz. “We talk to them all the way through the process. We’re open to working in a joint venture to help them start on their own, if that’s what they’d rather do.”

Marty Buoy, who is married to Mike Lenz’s daughter, Yvonne, became the first new partner in 2006. He was a mechanic at Caterpillar for seven years before joining the business. Now he’s the farm’s mechanic and works in the corn enterprise. He’s also continuing his management education. In January, he attended TEPAP, The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers, an intensive weeklong course designed to groom mid-career farm business owners and their successors.

“What makes the Lenz farm unique is we have no president or CEO. Each partner takes responsibility for different parts of the farm (purebred Charolais, potatoes, corn, finance, spraying) and makes the day-to-day decision for their respective area,” noted Buoy. “We have brief weekly employee meetings to go over the last week and discuss the coming week. Then, just the partners will meet and resolve any concerns or large decisions that need to be made. Each partner receives an equal vote and monthly draw. Profits are assigned at the end of the year according to ownership percentage.”

“My brothers and I learned what not to do in our first five years of farming,” said Lenz, who is in charge of the potato operation. “We were a train wreck waiting to happen, because we all thought we each knew best and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t agree with what each of us thought. We brothers all have the same values – a strong work ethic and integrity. But the four of us boys have very different personalities and interests.”


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