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March 2010 marks my 15th anniversary of writing for Grainews. Marie Salway passed away on March 15th, 1995. Marie had written the Butter Side Up column in this paper for over 17 years and she asked me to take her space. I can still remember thinking, “Wow, 17 years is a long time… and here we are 15 years later!”

This column is a re-work of the very first column I wrote, and the message is still as important today. I would like to dedicate this anniversary piece to all the farm families who need to re-gain a sense of hope for their futures. The families struggling with huge debt, livestock pressures, family conflict, and deep despair. The folks who are thinking of “letting go” of the cattle or hogs, reviewing the dream for the next generation on their farm, and looking for hope for their future well-being.

Planting Barley seed on Palm Sunday is a spring tradition at our house. Green barley sprouts burst forth to nestle coloured eggs, symbolizing new life as we celebrate Easter’s message of hope. I love Spring on the farm, the anticipation of a new crop year, with fervent hope that the combination of proper cultivation, and waiting on the heavens will produce a bumper harvest.

Some of my friends are not hopeful for spring. They see it as a time to endure long stretches of tension. A sense of abandonment from their spouse pervades their thinking. They fear signs of emotional problems like insomnia, anxiety, and excessive moodiness.

Spring seeding tensions can become an opportunity to asses our emotional well being and make some changes. Dr. William C. Menninger’s Seven Criteria for Emotional Maturity offers steps for living better emotionally:

  1. Face reality. If we are healthy, we have, through necessity, learned how to accept frustration with a fair degree of grace. Farm families need to exercise much grace and patience while waiting for warm soil or tractor repairs! Being able to deal constructively with the realities of seeding-time setbacks means we’ve gleaned those character traits that help us persevere with a positive attitude during tough times.
  2. Adapt to change. “Change is inevitable, growth is optional”. A life-threatening illness, an accident, or a family member’s depression are all things our family has had to deal with during spring seeding. Someone once said, “When you realize life is hard, it gets so much easier.” People who are depressed need medical treatment and your support; they need to hear your message of hope and friendship. Go to www.reasontolive.ca or call the Manitoba Suicide line 1-877-435-7170.
  3. Control anxieties. Level with yourself. Be honest with who you are. Get professional counseling (www.paccc.ca) to deal with your escape-like defense mechanisms. After a long day in the field, a farmer may rationalize staring at the TV rather than spending time with family. Blaming others for your own faults or problems is another defense mechanism that can lead to unjustified conflict.
  4. Give of yourself. The world could use a lot more givers with a servant attitude. What is your passion or vision? To plant straight rows.(easy now with auto-steer) or nurture healthy, giving children? Keep your passions alive for emotional well-being. Think of the folks you could invite over to your kitchen table for Easter dinner.
  5. Consider others. Check some of the personality traits affecting your capacity to relate with hope to others. Are you sincere? Evaluate your integrity, honesty, fairness, dependability and ability to accept criticism or correction. Check out the source. If there is truth to the criticism, make some adjustment. If the criticism is unfounded, move ahead. Give the gift of consideration and affirmation to your clan.
  6. Curb hostility. Steel-toed boots have probably saved a few feet when tires are kicked in frustration. Direct hostile energy into constructive outlets –like golf or baseball. Guilt and unreasonable feelings of inferiority are signs of hostility turned inward. Anger comes from hurt, fear or frustration that is not resolved. We are hostile when we are unkind, inconsiderate or thoughtless. Meals to the field during seeding could be delivered with warmth, grace and humour. Don’t be hostile if you aren’t thanked for the task or the meal is set aside. Get that freezer stocked now!
  7. Learn to care. The most important yardstick for living better emotionally is the capacity to love—that is, caring. Care for yourself, love yourself, and love others with deep caring .

Planting a good crop takes planning, patience, perseverance, passion, and the blessings of providence. These ingredients will also help the seed of hope flourish in your family. We are about to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the hope of eternal life in heaven, and our model for ultimate forgiveness.

Planting the seed of hope is a conscious choice each one of us makes every day. We choose our outlook, our behaviour and our response to the stresses around us that spring brings us. Please don’t wallow in your despair alone. Reach out to a trusted family member or friend. Talk to your pastor or mental health worker in confidence.

Understand that your life can be renewed, but it will take some healing time, opportunity for growth exists, but it may take some intentional work with support to find a new sense of hope for your farm future.

Strong families communicate, connect and celebrate. Have a wonderful time with your family and friends this Easter. Practice forgiveness, even if you are not “religious”. My relationship with Jesus gives me deep hope for the future, and I’m not afraid to tell you that He is my best friend. I choose to be rich in relationship towards God, and other people.

Thanks to the many readers over the past 15 years who have sent me seeds of encouragement via letters, emails, seminar feedback, and phone calls. Let’s have another 15 years of growing strong ahead.

Happy Spring and Happy Easter!

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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