Every year, I sit for three days at the Big Iron Show in Fargo in September and each year I write a column about my impressions of the show and the mood of both the attendees and the vendors. Many vendors are also farmers or ranchers so their outlook is also very important.

Big Iron will always hold a special place in my memory. On September 11, 2001, I was driving to the show when a special report came over the radio announcing a small plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. When I arrived at the show, one of the television stations had a big screen TV in their outdoor booth, and by eleven AM, hundreds of people were gathered around watching in horror as the events unfolded during 9/11. A day that will forever live in infamy for those of us too young to remember Pearl Harbor.

On day one of the show, as has gotten to be with all other day ones of other farm shows – KMOT Ag Expo, KFYR Agri-International, etc. – it's more like Halloween than it is a farm show. Droves of people show up who have no more interest in farming or ranching than the man in the moon, but they want all the good freebies the vendors are giving away. Many had one or two sacks filled to the brim with everything from pens to calendars to candy. All you could do for the day is stand back, let them grab and hope an occasional person would ask a pertinent estate planning question.

Day two was much better with a lot more 'active' farmers in the crowds – although the western farmers and ranchers – the small crops were finished – outnumbered easterners by possibly eight or ten to one. The eastern farmers were just getting busy with sugar beets and later crops.

I always enjoy day two of the farm show as I get to see all of my farm clients from over the years as they stop by, say hello and tell me about what has transpired in their lives over the year(s) and how the estate planning we put into place is either working or needs tweaking.

The mood this year was bitter-sweet. Sweet because most of them had an abundant crop year with good quality and little problems with harvesting. Quite a contrast from last year when I rained from mid-August through September in most of the state. Bitter because the crop reports had done their normal fall review and concluded we have too much grain again and the prices dropped. Of course, most of my clients understand the value of their crop is never determined until February through May.

Also, many of them seemed more at peace this year knowing they didn't have record incomes to get rid of before the end of the year. The last ten years have been so over the top good that most were concerned with getting rid of income prior to the December 31 deadline. Of course, from the vendors standpoint, this wasn't good as they too have grown and expanded over the past ten years and have come to depend on farmers making a dollar and spending two to grow and expand.

As I walked the aisles of the show, I noticed more and more businesses offering 'estate planning' as part of their services. Banks, crop marketing, insurance companies, etc. were now adding 'estate planning' to their list of things they sell. If this trend continues, soon WalMart will be doing estate planning

For many people, they don't care where they get their estate planning done. If they have a sheet of paper with their signature on it saying they are done – in the form of a will or a trust – they think they've done their duty to their family. These people have put in minimal effort and they will get minimal results.

Other people understand estate planning goes far beyond numbers and fancy words. It's finding someone who understands how you feel about your property, how your family particular – or peculiar – situation has to be reflected in your plan, and how you view your future, your family's future, and what options you have to use to make your plan your plan.


Michael Baron is the owner of Great Plains Diversified Services, Inc. and is a regular contributor to the "Farm And Livestock Directory". Involved in farm estate planning for more than thirty years, Michael Baron is well-versed in farm income taxation, estate taxation, retirement planning, transition planning, oil and gas estate issues, and all other issues facing the family farm, including family dynamics.  Presented in a comprehensive, down-to-earth 'question and answer" format, the topics addressed in this column talk about the many aspects of estate planning – and how to 'Keep the Family Farm in the Family'.   Contact Michael Baron at [email protected].