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Making better choices for the farm doesn’t have to be complicated.

A young farmer sends a distress-filled email at 2 am.  He calls for help to try and figure out whether he should chuck his dream of farming and find another life.  His father has just demanded two-thirds crop share for new land the young farmer has rented.  His goal is to get ahead.  His father wants to be well paid for the use of Dad’s equipment.  Oh, and Uncle has a say in things as well.  Unfortunately, it is disclosed later in conversation that there are no written agreements to be found, none for the partnership of Dad and Uncle, nor for the use of the equipment by the striving-to-succeed son.

During my morning quiet time I reread the story of the prodigal son.  There is a phrase in the context of the young man wanting to return home to his father after he has “come to his senses.”

This morning we have spent hours rouging a barley field to remove oats and volunteer wheat in order for the field to pass inspection – which thankfully it did.  As I was pulling out the oats I was reflecting on the three farmers who declared yesterday that they did not have accountants, a lawyer or power of attorney in place.  I couldn’t believe the sadness of the farmer who said, “Elaine, I’m like a hillbilly farmer who didn’t use professionals for the farm transfer, and now I have no income.”

Come to your senses.  Some things we do out of habit need to be “unlearned”.

WHAT’S UNLEARNING?

Maybe you’ve had a lifetime habit of saying yes when you’d like to say no – that’s an Unlearning!  Or, you need to control less and delegate more – that’s an Unlearning!  Perhaps you eat when stressed and you want to stop – that’s an Unlearning!

As an aging bookkeeper you might want to find a decent accountant to help you with tax planning, and setting up a workable business plan for your farm transfer to the next generation.

You might also want to visit an FCC office or other ag lender of your choice to see if you have a viable operation, and what a fair appraisal value would be.  The younger generation could also get a lesson here as to the value of debt servicing based on their off-farm income and farm income, and their ability to be very frugal with lifestyle choices in order to manage more debt.  As far as lawyers go, many CAFA (Canadian Association of Farm Advisors www.cafanet.com) members could give you a decent referral to a lawyer who can help get some of those partnerships and operating agreements in place that the guy in the opening paragraph of this column could really use.

The path to making better choices for your farm business doesn’t have to be confusing, twisted or in the dark.  The best thing you can do to regain some “common sense” in the planning process is to start by having conversations about what you want and what the next generation wants.  The prodigal son was clear about wanting his inheritance early, and his father also was very forgiving and welcoming when the impoverished prodigal son returned home.

Some farm families are struggling with who should be welcomed home to the farm business.

What do the financial statements tell you?  Being in denial about losing money with your livestock, and pretending that you aren’t going backwards with equity depletion is a huge “Unlearning.”  You need to face the facts and figures of the operation.  You also need to know whether the cash flow of the farm can support the living expenses of more than one family, and at what amount.  One smart farmer has set up his “personal wealth bubble” outside of the farm so that he and his wife don’t depend on farm income for their lifestyle choices.  This is ideal, but not common.

Maybe you need to sit down with a financial planner to see how you can grow your personal wealth bubble, and sit down with the farm business management specialist to crunch the numbers for farm revenue that can flow to family needs, and still run a profitable business.

Old habits may be killing your ability to succeed for the future.  In September the school children return to schools or home kitchens to “learn” new things.  Adults also need to have the mindset that they are “lifelong” learners.

So what is your farm family’s learning plan for this fall?  What do you need to do to embrace more common sense in your farm family decision-making?  What do you need to stop doing?…and “unlearn bad habits?”  What do you need to start doing and take as the next step to feeling more in control of your farm family’s vision and purpose?

We had a decent crop until last weekend when 17 quarters got significant hail damage.  We manage risk with hail insurance, but we don’t control where the hail or excess moisture falls.  We make plans, and sometimes those plans need to be adjusted.

Many farm families this fall are going to have to take a hard look at cash flow, and the lack thereof.  What resources do you have to generate income, reduce expenses and manage debt so that you can have healthy sleep at night?

One resourceful farm woman set a deadline, by Friday, for her “men” to have the appointments made for the appropriate professional advisor.  She was tired of waiting for them to figure out the succession map on their own.  The other “hillbilly” farmer I spoke with had wished he had phoned me before the transfer, rather than long after the fallout of poor planning.

I strongly believe that no matter how tough things get, we still can make good choices.  We need to collect the data and information that helps us choose the best options for our path, evaluate the costs both in money, time and energy, and use sound common-sense-driven advisers to guide us.  Some of those wise people may be the senior partners on your farm team, or your trusted special professionals or your spouse!

For those who have a crop, I wish you a bountiful and safe harvest.  For those facing weeds, I hope you get the winter wheat planted on time.  For those seeking grace, peace and mercy from fathers who will welcome you back home, I wish you lots of common sense and good advice for successful plans to prosper.  Let me know what your new learning plan is going to be for this fall.  Check out ideas on my blog at www.elainefroese.com or www.youtube.com “farm family coach”.

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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