Farmers Must Prepare for the Unthinkable

Sep. 6, 2018
Farmers Must Prepare for the Unthinkable

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tony Nye is a man on a mission.

A serious heart-related illness in late 2017 shook him to his core. It also convinced him that many farmers, both small-scale and large-scale, need to hear what he has to say.

“I was as close to knocking on the Pearly Gates as possible before I turned the corner,” he recalled. After surgery, he lost both weight and strength and spent a month in the hospital. “I wasn’t able to return to the barns for almost six months.”

Those barns are on his 50-acre Fayette County farm, where Nye raises meat goats and artificially breeds purebred swine. The swine herd consists of 20 sows and a boar stud that he lightheartedly refers to as “boar in a bottle.” The farm also includes some grain production, plus pasture ground for the goats.

Luckily for the family, his then 17-year-old son was able to step in and care for the livestock during his Dad’s illness. That care included not only feeding and watering during the bitter winter weather, but also farrowing numerous pig litters and making important decisions related to animal health, finances and marketing. But Nye realizes that things could have ended up much differently.

He plans to discuss the “what ifs” and the impacts it had on his family farm on Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Farm Science Review, an agricultural trade show held yearly at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London and sponsored by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. His presentation on “Be Prepared if Tragedy Strikes on the Farm,” is set for 11 a.m. at the Small Farms Center tent.

In addition to farming, Nye also works as the agricultural and natural resources Extension educator in Clinton County and is the statewide small farm coordinator for OSU Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University and its College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Now eight months after his heart scare, he still has only returned to the office on a part-time basis.

“Fortunately I am still among the living and our farm is still operating. Lots of decisions had to be made quickly and, honestly, we were not prepared,” he said.

Nye wants farmers to realize that they aren’t invincible and to recognize the importance of family communication and contingency plans. “Tragedy can mean many things on a farm—everything from a barn fire and severe illness to a car accident, death or lost crop due to hail or a windstorm,” he said. “Any of these things can create financial and physical stress for the family.”

When it comes to estate planning, farmers often only think about retirement and who to pass the farm to. Much more should be addressed, Nye noted. “Written directives are so very important,” he said. “They require communication and transparency among all family members.”

“If you don’t talk about it ahead of time, how can you plan for it?” Nye said. “I will discuss the whole thought process around ‘what if’ and preparing for the unthinkable.”

Among the recommendations he will discuss are that families should:

  • Recognize the critical importance of communication.
  • Talk openly about the “what ifs.”
  • Share with all family members the need for a plan in the event of a tragedy. Identify who will make the day-to-day decisions and other key people that should be involved. Is there someone who wants to keep the farm going?
  • Understand each other’s role and performance expectations.
  • Evaluate the situation from the standpoint of both financial and physical labor challenges. Have written goals and objectives to help guide necessary decisions.
  • Draw up a will to help the family know what to do in the event of death.
  • Consider a lawyer or tax preparer to discuss financial and legal decisions.
  • Compile a list of the farm’s support network including individuals such as an attorney, veterinarian, insurance agent, seed and fertilizer dealer, neighbors, and even the local Extension educator.

For more information about the three-day Farm Science Review, set for Sept. 18-20, visit


Sherrie R. Whaley


Tony Nye
937-382-0901, Ext. 15