STAGE 4: Document

Once the path forward is clear, the next step is to work with resources and professionals to develop all the elements identified in Stage 3. This involves developing the written transition plan: drafting written agreements, business and estate planning, obtaining financing, etc.

The first three stages of transition planning in this book are focused on visions, discussions, and exploring different options. At a certain point, you’ll arrive at decisions, and then it’s time to make it official by documenting your plan. Documentation is essential to a successful transition plan, from internal farm management documents such as Standard Operating Procedures and meeting notes, to official paperwork such as wills and leases. 

This toolkit is primarily focused on the first three stages because what comes next – Documenting, Implementing, and Maintaining – requires more hands-on support from your transition team, including farmers and business support services such as lawyers and accountants.

It is essential by this stage to be actively working with transition and succession experts, and to ensure that your plans have been assessed for feasibility both against the questions posed in this toolkit, and against any relevant laws and regulations (Appendix A provides an overview of relevant legislation).

Here are a few elements of a transition plan that should be documented:
  • Executive Summary: high-level description of your transition plan.
  • Action plan with proposed implementation timeline.
  • Asset transfer: address how farmland, buildings, and other assets will be conveyed from one party to the other.
  • Management transfer: address how management tasks, responsibilities, and income will shift over time from one farm operator to another.
  • Estate planning: direct the eventual transfer of assets, usually with the goal of preserving as much of the estate value as possible for the beneficiaries.
  • Business plan: set out strategies for farm operations, personnel, marketing, finance, and business entity formation and continuance.
  • Land use: map out land use options that address agriculture, forestry, and recreation uses as well as conservation and development.
  • Retirement: address how and where the retiring persons want to live, their anticipated income, and health care costs.


Throughout the transition process, it is important to be clear on tasks: who is responsible for what, and how and when those tasks are done. In one example, the farmer grounds her transition process (in year 9 of 10) in the farm’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): each year, the current and entering farmers meet to review the SOPs against their timeline and goals, and reaffirm how they’ll move forward over the next year.

A good Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document consists of a simple, concise checklist of routine tasks around the farm, which allows for consistency, transparency and clear communication around farm tasks. 

Developing or working with existing SOPs provides a common framework for how to do tasks on the farm, and a concrete reference point for the ongoing division of labour and decision-making. SOPs save time, help in training new employees, maintain quality standards and prevent mistakes and accidents. SOPs should be easily and quickly accessible to everyone, easy to follow and written simply and clearly, with diagrams and pictures wherever possible.

Start by thinking about jobs that get done frequently. Clearly define the task and then describe the steps involved in the process. Include as many details as possible, remembering that what might seem obvious to you, especially if you’ve done that task a million times, will not be for someone who is just learning. Make sure to involve all the people who perform the task in the creation of the SOPs and remember that these are living documents and can be amended and changed at any time.

Examples of tasks that may warrant a written SOP:
  • Leafy greens washing, drying and packing
  • Bookkeeping, paying bills
  • Moving animals
  • Water sampling
  • Soil amendment application and management
  • Monitoring irrigation equipment
  • Sanitizing procedures for washup area
  • Tractor and equipment operation and maintenance
  • Any task that you want done efficiently and consistently…
A general format for an SOP might consist of the following parts:
  • Title: What is a simple, clear title to identify the task?
  • Objective & Purpose: What task are you accomplishing and why?
  • Scope: Where and to whom does the SOP apply?
  • Responsibility: Who is responsible for making sure the task is completed?
  • Materials: What specific items are needed to complete the task?
  • Procedure: What are the steps to the task, in order?
  • Verification & Documentation: How will you verify that the procedure was completed correctly and what records will you keep?