Make sure the farm takes care of Mom
“It would be really appreciated if the opinions of the women on this ranch counted for something,” quips the tired bookkeeper of a sprawling family-owned business. I hear the sadness in her voice because she feels she has no voice regarding the decision-making or management of a business she has given her heart to for over 22 years.
Last month I had the honor of speaking to the National Women in Agriculture Educators Conference in Oklahoma City, and the Women in Agriculture Conference in Wenatchee, Washington. I’ve learned a few things that you might like to share with your Momma on Mother’s Day!
Women initiate the courageous conversations that need to happen for the farm and ranch to stay profitable. If you think you can keep avoiding conflict you are sadly mistaken. Seek to find out what others want, and talk about it with respect!
Women in the United States are about to become 75 percent of the landowners in the next wave of land transfer. The same is probably true for Canada. So if these “granny landowners” have most of the farmland, what impact will this have on your future and your future relationships?
I am reminded of the phone call from Saskatchewan where a distressed older farmer related that his non-farming siblings were suing their mother! Not exactly the kind of Mother’s Day gift one might anticipate. These siblings were waiting for their land inheritance, and mom was living well into her 90s.
We can pull two messages from this story. One, be nice to your mom, she may outlive you! And two, folks are all living longer and you need money to maintain your lifestyle when you leave the farm at 75 or sooner. That takes planning. Perhaps the best gift this year is to take Mom out for a nice meal and talk about your dreams for the future. Then hire some professional advisors to build the road map to get what you want while providing for her retirement at the same time.
There are lots of social security issues for women who have always plowed their savings and income into the black hole of the farm. When you wake up at 65 and realize that your pension income just isn’t going to cut it, I hope you have generous children waiting in line to help you out. Otherwise, I hope you were a smart woman investor who is reaping the benefits of your own personal wealth bubble that generates an income stream, regardless of the financial health of the ranch.
My mom has passed on, but she left me a legacy of love. In the end, that’s what really counts anyway, the emotional bank account that women build as farm leaders and family leaders. My mom also encouraged me to take on any project with confidence. She modeled a woman who definitely did have a strong voice.
While many women are about to be very wealthy due to the inheritances that are transitioning across the wave of boomer children, but they may also crave emotional wealth.
A woman stopped me at the Regina Farm Show last June and thanked me for the best birthday she had experienced in 24 years of marriage. Her husband had been inspired by my encouragement at Grazing School to put effort into an intentional appreciation of your spouse. He showed up on her birthday with a card, flowers, chocolate, and supper out. She was deeply moved, feeling immensely loved and appreciated. Patiently for 24 years, she waited for this amazing inexpensive expression of love!
Mother’s Day is hard for those who have said goodbye to the woman who fed them chicken noodle soup when they were sick. It’s also hard for those folks who face unresolved issues of deep conflict with the keeper of the farm’s purse strings.
Make this year different.
Resolve to face your conflict bumps and show love to the woman who faithfully has served your farm family in good times and in bad.
Call your mom.
Plan to empower your mom to manage her wealth well. Seek out, financial advisors. Celebrate the gift of family and friends by intentionally saying “thanks” to the women in blue jeans who have given you a great opportunity in agriculture.
Don’t get stuck in the muck of fear and regret. You only have today to choose to give a voice, and a listening ear, to the women who have helped you create the wealth on your farm and ranch.
Ride the range together and listen to each other’s heart’s desires. Understand that the way women are wired they don’t expect you to solve their problems. They just would really like you to listen to their story.
Write a word of affirmation to a strong woman who has modeled something wonderful for you and your loved ones. “I love you” is universally understood. “I appreciate all that you have done over the years” will break open the floodgates of renewed relationships.
Draw a support map with your name in the center to figure out “Who is it that really cares about our family farm? Who can I go to to talk about these things?” The answer is likely “mom.”
The open arms of a loving mom are a safe harbor for many storms in life. Extend your reach to a woman in agriculture today, even if your own mom is gone, and strengthen that connection.
You’ll be glad you are part of the chain in giving a “voice” to women in agriculture.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Elaine Froese is a catalyst for creative change in conflicted farm families. As a certified coach and speaker, she inspires folks to “discuss the undiscussable.”