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Farm Coach story on Elaine Froese

by | Sep 5, 2010 | Uncategorized

Farm Coach story on Elaine Froese

By Bill Redekop
Winnipeg Free Press
April 30,2006

BOISSEVAIN – Elaine Froese doesn’t look like someone who once had 23 shock therapy sessions for what her doctor called the worst post-partum depression he had ever seen.

Froese is energetic, upbeat, engaging and direct. Her experience is part of the reason. “I don’t want to ever go back there,” she told me.

Froese bills herself as a “farm coach.” Don’t laugh. She gets $3,000 per speaking engagement, and recently returned from a gig in Lewiston, Idaho. She applies her practice across Western Canada, helping farm families untangle emotional issues from the business of running a farm.
Read this article as published in the May 8, 2006 Brandon Sun (pdf format)

And there is often much untangling to be done. So much of farming mixes business and family, with the potential to leave lasting scars.

Froese often deals with farm successions where a son or daughter is poised to take over the farm. The parents want to help him or her get started, but how do they ensure other family members are treated equally, and that everyone retains some link to the land to which they have emotional bonds?

Or she will tackle a case where a farm has been in a family for four generations, but now the son doesn’t know if he wants to take it over. His father has always dreamed he would. Neither of them can talk about it.

“This whole love issue stuff? Love is a part of business,” Froese says.

Or there are sons who took over the farm and now can’t pay the bills, or who want to make a career change, but feel like they’re letting down four generations of family.

“Now do you see how complicated it gets?” she asks.

Many sons, farming alongside their fathers, don’t feel appreciated, she said. “There are sons who have never heard their fathers say ‘I love you, and I’m proud of you, and I think you’re a great manager,'” she said. “We’re still dealing with farmers who are 76-years-old. Our generation is much different.”

Her depression two decades ago helped prepare Froese to help others. “This is my life’s calling,” she says, and, after sitting down with her for a short while, it’s hard to disagree.

A farm coach isn’t something you just one day decide you’re going to be. She obtained her certificate from the Hudson Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif., through an eight-month distance education course, with four on-site learning components. She has several other certificates, like one from an estate planning course.

But she also has hands-on experience from working for 20 years as a mediator between farmers and creditors with the farm debt review board. She is also deacon in a local church and confides that she keeps a prayer list for those she sees struggling.

Last year, Froese self-published an advice book for farm families called Planting the Seed of Hope, which sells for $20, including taxes. She has sold close to 2,000 copies already.

“We, as farmers, are a minority culture. Where do you go to find people who understand what you’re going through?”

She generally meets with family members separately or in smaller groups before bringing the family together.

“I say, ‘Tell me about the bull in the middle of the room that no one wants to talk about.’ ”

She is, like so many rural people, more computer savvy than most city people. She has used a technician based in India to do things like install new database programs and rearrange her computer desktop. The Internet brings the world to her farm door at the end of a dusty, gravel road. Her website is elainefroese.com.

Froese also helps farm couples prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for retirement, and even helps clients find mates. “In rural areas, how do you meet people?”

Froese is spoken for, however. She was raised on a cattle ranch in Dugald, and travelled to Boissevain to work as a home economist. She picked out the carpet that’s still on the floor of the house she now lives in, without knowing she would one day marry the customer’s son, Wes Froese.

Elaine Froese also gives a handful of speeches for charities and church groups each year, setting aside her regular speaking fees.

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Read this article as published in the May 8, 2006 Brandon Sun (pdf format)

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