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Family Business Matters       10/15 05:58

   Legacy Beyond Land

   Set examples for future generations by embracing values over assets.

By Lance Woodbury
DTN Farm Business Adviser

   Several weeks ago, I visited Joe Nichols, the owner of Seven Springs Farms, 
in Cadiz, Kentucky. In the course of showing me his office, which is full of 
pictures, agricultural symbols and historic artifacts, Joe pointed to a framed 
letter hanging on the wall -- a note from a farmer/landowner for whom Joe 
repaired equipment, as the repair work allowed Joe to transition into farming 
full-time. When that farmer retired, he decided to rent his farm to Joe. That 
same landowner also lent Joe some equipment when he was just getting started 
and had almost nothing to his name.

   Joe said by giving him a chance to farm, that landowner made an 
unforgettable difference in his life. "If the office were burning, that letter 
is the first thing I'd grab on my way out the door," he explained. With those 
words, Joe told me the letter -- and the opportunity it represented -- had 
become an important part of his own legacy.


   As I spent more time with Joe and began to understand what was important to 
him, the idea that one's legacy reaches beyond physical assets -- the land and 
the money -- came into sharper focus. In Joe's case, and for many of you 
reading this article, your legacy includes, but is so much more than, the farm, 
equipment and cash you leave to your heirs. Your legacy represents the values, 
principles and behaviors that have defined your life.


   For example, the letter Joe showed me represented opportunity. In this case, 
the power of giving someone a chance to get started in agriculture and knowing 
firsthand the impact that act of generosity can have made Joe want to create 
opportunities for others. Paying opportunity forward has guided his interaction 
with family, partners and employees. Giving others opportunities to achieve 
their goals is now paramount in his life.


   Another example of a deeper notion of legacy is caring for others. This 
might be helping those in need, perhaps during a medical or family emergency. 
Joe and several other farmers I know have helped people by providing money 
(often anonymously), the use of equipment, introductions or connections. Or, 
they have simply been physically and emotionally present when those they know 
have been beset by unfortunate circumstances.


   Another aspect of legacy is bouncing back when you encounter difficult 
circumstances. Joe is not the only farmer who has been through tough times, but 
the way one works his or her way out of economic or environmental catastrophe 
-- what many people call "resiliency" -- is as much a part of who they are as 
any line on a financial statement. It's not the circumstances that define you, 
it's your response to those events. And, that response is an important part of 
your legacy.


   A final component of legacy that I see in many farmers and ranchers, 
including Joe, is leadership and risk-taking. Making a decision, jumping in, 
standing tall for what they believe is right, even when it's not popular or 
when it's not the safest route to go, is something their heirs may also 
embrace. That doesn't mean people have a license to act foolishly, but it does 
mean a personal investment and a willingness to push through uncertainty and 
act with resolve are what people will remember for generations to come.

   Legacy is a multifaceted concept that is worth thinking deeply about. Though 
people in coming generations will certainly be thankful for the acreage you 
pass down, they will be even more blessed by the values you embrace and example 
you set for them today.


   Editor's Note: Write Lance Woodbury at Family Business Matters, 2204 
Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email 


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