David and Lisa Schacht are facing some harsh realities as they shepherd their vegetable farm and retail produce market into a fourth decade of operation.
The couple are in their mid-50s, so they anticipate continuing the Columbus, Ohio-based business, Schacht Family Farm, for years to come.
But when they’re done, so, in all likelihood, will be their business.
They have three children, ages 20-28, and all the kids have chosen different career paths that do not include the produce business.
“That’s not likely to happen,” said Lisa Schacht, who also serves as president of the board of directors of the Columbus-based Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association.
The Schachts grow vegetables on 60 acres on the southeastern edge of Columbus and operate a farm market and pick-your-own business, as well.
“We have not thought about somebody buying us out or partnering, because we want to operate the farm in some manner, because we’re only in our mid-50s,” Lisa Schacht said.
She and her husband are finding, though, that it’s becoming more difficult to keep up with the demands of such production, she said.
“Our most likely path is to adapt, with maybe fewer crops or different methods of marketing, as we age,” she said.
Such is the fate of some produce businesses in which a new generation does not want to take over an operation that may have survived multiple generations.
“There are definitely several operations that the younger generation wants to stay there,” Schacht said.
That likely will remain the trend, she said.
“I’d say there’s always going to be some of those operations that have the next generation continue on with it, but there’s going to be just as many operations that look for an exit strategy,” she said.
There’s no pressure on the children to take over the business, Schacht said.
Some Ohio suppliers already have started the process of passing the business to the next generation.
“I’m pretty fortunate to have a son who does the daily coordination of the business already,” said Tony DiNovo, president of Columbus-based wholesaler DNO Inc.
His son, Alex, 28, is company vice president and has been in a leadership position with the company for six years.
“That’s really what you need, and I was really fortunate to have a son who was very smart and willing to do the 60- to 80-hour weeks,” DiNovo said.
The elder DiNovo said he realizes others in the business don’t have that next generation ready, willing and eager to take over.
“I know there are others who brought sons and daughters in and they lost interest, but there are still family businesses around,” he said.
Jim Sanfillipo’s son, Jamie, already is a 50-50 partner in Sanfillipo Produce Co. Inc. in Columbus.
“It’s not common,” said Jim Sanfillipo, 58, whose son is 37.
Ben Roth said he took the next-best route to passing his company, Roth Produce Co., on to his children.
He recently merged the company with Dayton, Ohio-based ProduceOne to create Roth ProduceOne.
“I have a son who chose a different path,” Roth said.
But there are others who have been with the company a long time who will take more control over the company, Roth said.