Succession Planning – The DIRTT Project

By: Rena Striegel, President and Founder of The DIRTT Project


Succession planning is not synonymous with words like – fun, simple, quick, or easy. We all recognize the process of planning for leadership and ownership transition is just that – a process. It takes time, knowledge, an experienced professional, and most of all – leadership. It requires strong leadership to make the decision to get started, put a team of professionals together, and move a family and an operation through a transition. The challenge for most operators is this: Where do we start?

The industry that surrounds succession planning does not make that question easy to answer. Most information regarding succession planning is delivered through articles in agricultural publications or at conference breakout sessions. The challenge is that you may not know if the source of the information is credible or how to take the information and apply it to your family’s situation.

“Things come at you so fast. It is important to have the right people around you as you begin to make succession decisions,” said Todd Malecha of Malecha Enterprises.

“Transition is a mindset. You must transition from being a worker bee to being a teacher and mentor.  It is important to know that mistakes will happen and that is part of the learning process,” Malecha stated.

Making the decision to begin the process of succession planning can be difficult when there are a lot of unknowns. Mark Crave of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese and Farm advises, “You can be an active participant in your succession plan or choose to not do anything. Either way, you’re making a choice.”

When the decision is delayed, stress for both the family and the operation increases. The runway becomes shorter and there are less options available to support transition. Mr. Malecha stated, “It is easy to feel like you are on an island all by yourself. I found that as I reached out to others and set expectations with my family and employees – it got easier.”

He encourages other dairy producers to stop delaying the decision to start, “Pull the trigger and get started.  If you really want your business to survive for generations and to leave a legacy, waiting is only going to hurt the chances of a successful transition.”

When you do not have the playbook, it’s hard to know how to play the game. We found that when information was placed in the hands of the operators, they had a much higher succession completion rate than the farms who did not. The industry needed a better tool that placed the control with the farmers – not the professionals. We took the challenge seriously and created The DIRTT Project.

We believe that the only way to ensure the viability of the family farm is to make sure that every farm with an owner over 50 has the tools and resources that they need. The DIRTT Project is a comprehensive online program that allows a farm family to create and implement their individualized comprehensive business continuity and succession plan. It combines video tutorials with a 60-page workbook that will walk a family through the process at their own pace.

Knowing where to start, navigating the process, and managing family dynamics should not deter families from beginning to plan for succession. Now, thanks to The DIRTT Project, the tools to create a timeline and work through the big topics surrounding succession are available to everyone.


For more information on The DIRTT Project visit their website, or contact Patti for questions and further resources at