Blogs

A Caring Church of Farm Families

March 3, 2008

Communicate love, hope, and support in practical ways to farm families. Connect with the issues and meet to pray for cattle and hog producers who are really struggling. Celebrate with an attitude of gratitude for the people who put food on your table, toiling, taking risks, so that we all can enjoy daily bread.

Communicate, connect, and celebrate. Those three words are all you have to grasp and act on. There are many ways your church can minister care to farm families.

My passion as a farmer and farm family business coach is to encourage families to communicate, connect and celebrate. I want farmers bounding back from the bumps of life to be resilient and thrive, not just strive to survive.

Farmers are independent entrepreneurial lots who are hesitant to ask for help. When they do ask, we should recognize the courage that it took to ask. There are many underlying fears of failure, disappointing the legacy of the past farming generations, and role confusion. If a farmer is forced to let go of the farm, who is he?

What are farmers and agricultural producers asking for?

Respect. Don’t judge them as simple-minded plaid-clan plain folks. They are business people taking huge risks every day to produce food and agricultural products that make your life better and easier. Communicate your respect and your care for farmers via the media. This could include writing letters to the editor or calling in to talk shows. Europeans revere farmers because they still remember what it was like to go hungry.

Profitable returns. Each sector of the industry has cycles of highs and lows. The cattle and hog producers are really struggling with high input costs and low returns. Don’t rejoice in a high Canadian dollar, that really hurts our export markets. Remember that there are always two sides to every economic story. You are spending less than 10% of your disposable income on food, and the farmer gets the smallest portion of your food dollar.

Drop-in the company.
Visit us on our farms. One of the signs of high stress is farm families pulling back into more isolation. Take care to see who is showing up in your circle of community, and find out why the farm families have withdrawn from fellowship. Churches can offer counseling resources as helping professionals. You can simply be a caring church member who wants to share coffee and courageous conversation. Create support groups for people to voice their pain and frustration.

Pray. Thank God for the daily bread and the rich resources of this awesome peaceful country we are privileged to live in. Perhaps your church would like to intentionally connect with a rural church to explore ways to understand the urban/rural dynamic. In Wisconsin, there is a ministry of rural churches connected to sister city churches so that they can support the rural folks. They do this with film nights, special celebrations, letters of encouragement, and prayer requests. In Canada check out www.canadianruralchurch.net or www.ruralmatters.net

Appreciate the weather. The flood of 1997 drew lots of media attention. It was heartening to receive calls from urban friends in Toronto who wanted to know how we were coping. The same thing happened with a devastating hail storm in 1994 and tornados in 2007. Weather is a really big deal to rural folks, we measure our rain, and pray for swathed crops to stay dry.

Unique culture.
Value the fact that farmers are very special people, comprising only 2% of the Canadian population. Many farm families are dealing with finding a successor for their trans-generational businesses. There are families encouraging their children to pursue a degree in agriculture, but these are typically not the ones you read about in the paper.

Buy local. You’ve heard lots lately about the 100-mile diet and eating locally grown foods. I smile when I realize that as a farm kid, and now farm woman, I’ve eaten local for over 50 years. Buying locally grown food products, and taking the time to buy from farm families is another way to develop relationships and boost farm gate receipts. Ask your food manager at larger centers why they aren’t supporting more local food suppliers.

Recognize role overload. Over 50% of farm women have off-farm income. They likely have no garden or smaller gardens in some cases as they are extremely busy managing the home, family, off-farm job, and contributing to the farm operation. There is a huge degree of tiredness among rural women who commutes long distances to perform tasks that city people would marvel at. The distance factor can be shortened with caring phone calls, emails, and words of encouragement.

Financial awareness.
We need to de-shame rural bankruptcy. The church family needs to recognize feelings of hopelessness, depression, anger, and shame, watching that people don’t withdraw into themselves. As a farm debt mediator I am familiar with the courage it takes for a farmer to admit that his or her debt has become a monster. The large expensive equipment used can be the brunt of jokes, but the truth that there is no cash flow is a sad reality for many who are cash crunched. We don’t appreciate the paycheque mentality or jokes about double overtime. Many farmers work 80 to 100-hour weeks.

Coaching is “about discovery, counseling is about recovery”. Some farm spouses refuse to reach out to facilitators for family meetings to resolve conflict issues. The trend in farm succession is that a team of advisors is used to help the family business transition to the next generation if there are successors. There is a huge backlog of farmers in their late 60’s and 70’s who are still hanging on to the founder’s role, and not transitioning ownership and management. This means that many families will be experiencing huge changes in the next 10 years. The average age of a farmer in Canada today is 52. Counseling is needed for those struggling with past issues that are affecting their mental health. Unfortunately, 2 out of 3 people do not seek treatment for mental health issues. In North Dakota, Dr. Sean Brotherson’s study discovered that 51% of that state’s farmers would not seek out mental health professionals. Pride is a huge factor and the culture of independence. “I should be able to fix things by myself.” Unfortunately, people are a lot more complex than machines. God needs to be part of the healing also.

Connect with words of encouragement. If you see a media report about a farm family, track them down on www.canada411.com and send them some words of encouragement and pray for them. Write poetry. Read the Psalms as your praise for the wonderful way God provides for you, and notice the agricultural metaphors. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2.Corinthians 9:6.?

Be curious about learning more about the people who helped put food on your table. Google in your thoughts to find contacts and newsletters to help you understand how you can pray for peace on the land. Have an attitude of gratitude, and bless the food you eat with a thankful heart.

Words kindly spoken are “like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11). There are many farm families who would rejoice if they knew you really wanted to communicate, connect and celebrate God’s goodness with them. What are you waiting for? We won’t be giving you a formal city-like invitation. Use your cell-phone, call us, and then drop in.
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Elaine Froese, PHEc, CAFA, CHICoach is a catalyst for courageous conversations. This article was printed in the Canadian Mennonite in 2007. Church groups have asked for practical ways to connect to farmers and encourage farm families.

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.

$15

Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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