The process of transitioning a farm from one generation to the next can be one fraught with challenges. From hard conversations around business goals and retirement plans to ensuring siblings in the younger generation are treated equally and gaining open access to financial records, succession can be a stressful time on a farm family. But for Vincent Kouwenberg and his parents Marinus and Joze, succession was a natural process.
Vincent is now sole proprietor of the farm, milking 68-head Holstein and Holstein-Jersey cross at the dairy operation in Wallace Bay. The senior Kouwenbergs, now in their mid-60s, have moved from farm owners to farm employees, helping with chores and managing the financial records.
Throughout the Kouwenberg farm transition, Vincent worked closely with the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board to develop, diversify and grow the operation.
The Kouwenbergs immigrated to Nova Scotia with their young family, including Vincent, in the late 1970s, and began working in the same location on a hog farm. The family stayed in the hog business for decades, but when Vincent came home after work tours at farms in Europe, prices in the hog industry were dropping.
"The hog industry was in quite a decline at the time," Vincent recalls. "We worked out that I would start out with the dairy alongside of the pigs. And in 2002, I borrowed my first big loan to start the dairy." Vincent purchased 12 cows and over the years, as the price of hogs continued to slide, the farm expanded more into the dairy sector.
As the dairy side of the farm operation grew, Vincent says there were changes in the barns.
"We repurposed the barns, which made it possible for us to get started in the industry," Vincent says, pointing out that the cost of new barns is just too much debt to take on early in a career. As the renovations of the barns continued, he began working with the NSFLB. The former hog and beef barns had changes such as concrete pens removed, floors resurfaced and feed rails installed, all as ways to equip the facility for dairy cows instead of beef and pigs.
Vincent says the NSFLB a constant business partner over the years. "They've been with us the whole way along. I've had quota loans and equipment loans through them as well," Vincent says.
Armed with power to lock in interest rates for long terms, Vincent says it was the perfect partnership.
"Locking in interest gave me some certainty in my planning and that's the security I needed. It was easier to make a sustainable business plan knowing up front what your costs would be throughout the term. Their loan was the best fit for what we were looking to do."