Sometimes a short conversation lights a huge fire of controversy, and this column may create a few sparks, so please read carefully all the way to the end.

A farm family with a very strong-willed daughter-in-law asks their business planner how to make progress with decision making since the “in-law” seems to have an opinion about every farm business decision made. The planner advised the farm team to consider farm business and shareholder decisions as their “territory”, making it clear that the spouse — the daughter-in-law — was not part of that decision group. What would you advise? Everyone has an opinion, so let’s dig deeper and figure out what a daughter in law needs:

Your daughter-in-law has been raised in a pay-cheque family, so she is used to a quick, consistent cash flow, benefits, and paid vacation. Can you explain to her that the farm cash flow works differently? The capital reserves for large purchases take a few months or years to pay-off to zero? Explain that decisions are made to find assets that generate revenue and a house is not typically a revenue generator on the farm, so be careful with those farm home expenses. Keep good track of family living costs.

Succession planning takes a long time to work through. A farmer I worked with in 1993 confirmed to me this year that they are just nicely finishing up all the details. What attitude are you bringing home to the family unit from your business meetings? Are you frustrated? Does your spouse realize that there are always many sides to a story?

People connection
Young mothers of your grandchildren are doing their level best to raise happy healthy kids, stay married to your son, and still have friendships beyond the family. Your daughter in law may need more social time than you do, although you might want to explain the weather and time pressures of seeding, calving and harvest.

If you’re an introvert and you don’t need people to get energy, you may never understand her needs as an extravert. If you aren’t happy with her social life, is it really any of your business? Does it affect your ability to manage the farm? Or are you just upset that her life looks better than yours?

Picture perfect house
The home design channels don’t favour delayed gratification in renovation of the farmhouse. Stories still abound about the mother-in-law who can’t accept the new paint colour on the wall of her former home. I also met a farmer this winter who was exasperated that his daughter-in-law never ever wanted to live on the main yard. He was hoping for a new location, and she was not interested in leaving the city. What is this conflict really about? Do you have the courage to call a family council and talk about your future farm vision, your values and cherished beliefs?

Expectations are the shortcut to discontent, so maybe it is time to clarify some expectations about lifestyle choices and residence.

Predictable family time
Many young farmers tell me they are not willing to work as hard or as long hours as their parents. They want a “life”. Work life balance is not balance, it is more like buoyancy, keeping your head above water, and pausing for family time with some predictability.

We all work long and hard when the pressure is on, but for some workaholic families, the pressure cooker is never released with fun and friendship for the family. A young dairy farmer solved this problem by joining ventures with his new business partner, his best friend, so that both families have guaranteed family weekend time on alternate weekends. What new business model are you considering in order to keep your family harmony healthy?

Please and thank-you
Many new family members are just looking for common courtesy and grace that you extend to the feed guy or fuel supplier. The lack of appreciation is one of the barriers to succession planning. Practice being more gracious to all farm team members, and their spouses.

I know a young farm wife who is horrified that her mother-in-law does not have the common decency to open the gifts the young woman presents to her. Her husband is not protecting her or helping his mother understand that Mom is seeding the divorce cloud.

(Don’t) pretend everything is just fine
Keeping peace by avoiding conflict serves no one. Courageous conversations need to happen to change promises into written agreements, produce a family code of conduct or job descriptions for the farm policy manual.

I am curious why many young women who come from a totally different conflict style family are not given the chance to express their concerns and issues in a forum that is respectful. You allow the accountant and financial planner to look at the numbers, but are you being honest about the tension and poor family dynamic that will blow apart the best-laid plan? If you can’t resolve conflict, gain some skill in this area by taking a conflict resolution course, hiring a facilitator/mediator or get some phone coaching. Unresolved conflict grows ugly as time goes on, when there are fewer options to resolve a fight that was really very fixable in the early stages of the conflict.

Privacy with respect
Your son and daughter in law may now occupy the main yard home residence. You are used to being on site to lend a hand and be the “hired help”. But your intent to help out may be misinterpreted as “interference” not helpfulness. This is where the line, “I was just curious…am I doing things that are irritating you? My intent is to be helpful like my mother-in-law was. Just checking.” Respect of all members of your farm team will be helpful and pay huge dividends in the emotional bank account of your farm family.

I happen to be a strong-willed daughter in law myself, so I would recommend honest, open communication to iron out those irritants that are interfering with your decision making process. Ask yourself: “What do I need, and what is it that she needs that she is not getting?” Then ask her the same questions!

All the best with your courageous conversations. You’ll be glad you broke the daughter-in-law barrier early in the battle.

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.


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“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
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Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
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Audience Member,
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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.”
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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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