Paul Frost began dairy farming in the late 1980s, after a landowner would only rent him their tillable acres if he agreed to run the dairy that came with it. Paul had to milk cows in the 40-cow dairy barn that had been long unused. In 1996, they built on the current site in Waterford, Wis. Over the next few years, they grew the farm to 675 cows.
Unfortunately, Paul became sick in 2008 and passed away in 2016. Over time, the Frost family formulated an estate plan that allowed them to continue farming. Through this process, Stewart and Spencer learned valuable lessons being the next generation.
DBA: What advice from previous generations has impacted you most?
Paul Frost Farms: Paul used to say that cows give milk recreationally, so give them everything they need to be happy and they will reward you. He also felt it was extremely important to feed your own cows. It is an important job and plus it keeps you connected to your herd and your employees every single day. Paul, Stewart or Spencer have fed all but seven days since 1996.
DBA: Who are the key people who helped with the transition?
Paul Frost Farms: Having a good lawyer and accountant is key in a transition. Our lawyer, George Twohig, was very knowledgeable and propelled the conversation forward with his straightforward nature. The staff at CLA were very thorough and helpful as well.
DBA: What were some major challenges during the transition?
One thing to remember if your estate plan involves life insurance, you are ensuring the transition takes place immediately following a family tragedy. It’s best to have everything well planned out in advance because there is a lot going on. We are thankful for the planning we had completed, but there was still a lot of family decisions that could have happened sooner.
DBA: What surprises did you experience during the transition?
Paul Frost Farms: Extra costs. Appraisals, title work, accounting, legal, bank fees… It never seemed to end. If we had to go through it again, we would leave the farm more liquidity to deal with those costs.
DBA: What advice do you have for a farm working on their succession plan?
Paul Frost Farms: Start now. Be realistic. Speak frankly. Give the farm the liquidity it needs to survive, even if it means not completely buying out family members immediately.
DBA: What are you most proud of on your farm?
Paul Frost Farms: We are very proud of our cows and employees. Many of our employees have been with us for over a decade and we have had a somatic cell count below 100 for several years. We also take pride that we were able to work hard enough to have the ability to buy the farms around us to ensure they stay in agriculture and that “the island” we have built will ensure that our family will be able to farm into the future.