Workshops aim to pass the torch to next generation of Nebraska farmers

Farm and Food

Beginning and established farmers alike have long sought out assistance from the Center for Rural Affairs. With a variety of programs directed at starting and maintaining small family farms, the Center continues that longstanding tradition by introducing a series of workshops to kick off the new year.

Consisting of four separate courses, the “Passing the Torch” series builds on a previous set of workshops offered through the Center. “Managing for the Future” focused on land transition.

“Passing the Torch” takes the topic of land transition and amplifies it, launching it in new directions that cater to both beginning and established farmers.

Dave Goeller, retired deputy director of North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and resource provider at Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, acts as facilitator of both sets of workshops.

“I try to allow the audience to ask as many questions as possible and go the direction the questions lead us,” he said. “Folks seem to appreciate that the workshops aren’t like a regular lecture.”

The four courses set for 2021 will take place online, which may provide a different atmosphere than meeting in person, but Dave is hopeful that it will still offer similar outcomes as last year’s workshops.

“The benefit of an online platform is that it allows access from farther distances without traveling or time constraints,” he said. “That may attract people who wouldn’t be able to attend if we were doing these events in person.”

Last year, Jami Thoene attended one of the initial “Managing for the Future” workshops. As a resource conservationist, and beginning farmer and rancher state coordinator with the Saunders County Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office in Wahoo, Nebraska, she participated to gain perspective for her job.

“The original reason I decided to attend was in part due to my new role as the beginning farmer and rancher coordinator,” she said. “My hope was to expand on my knowledge in this area to help other beginning farmers and ranchers who may have questions about current and future succession planning.”

Besides being enlightened by Dave’s explanation of different scenarios, as well as hearing about the individual situations of others who attended, Jami was surprised at how much she benefited personally by being able to reflect upon her own past situation.

“Through this association, I was able to really hone in on what other attendees were asking and think about how things could have been different for my own family if we had had a better understanding of succession planning, and I hope I can utilize my experience as a tool to help others,” Jami said.

With topics providing a closer, in-depth look at land transition, the Nebraska Beginning Farmer Tax Credit, financing for farm businesses, and the best approaches to making decisions during hard times, Jami is hoping she can attend one or more of the “Passing the Torch” series of workshops.

“I definitely would recommend these courses—everyone has the capacity to learn, and there is always new information evolving as people, especially in the farming community, are continuing to grow,” she said. “We learn from each other’s stories, so it’s important they are shared and those struggling or looking for direction feel embraced so they also know they do not have to struggle alone. Or, maybe they just need a second unbiased opinion.”

Dave agrees, and feels there’s great potential in assisting and educating people on the important topics discussed in the upcoming workshops.

“If you have information, then you’re able to make better choices,” he said. “Management is the key to making things work. Management basically is just a way of organizing and thinking about how you’re going to make your decisions. I hope these workshops help people know what it is that they need to do, what they need to get together to make better decisions and be better managers and ultimately be successful. And, I think in large part that does occur.”

“Passing the Torch” workshops will be on Thursdays, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.:

  • Jan. 28, “Land Transition Conversations”
  • Feb. 25, “The NextGen Tax Credit”
  • March 11, “Financing the Farm Business”
  • March 25, “Decision Making in Tough Times”

Registration is required by noon the day of each event; sign up at For more information, contact Justin Carter at or 402.237.5082.

This project is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher Grant.