Will the farm be profitable for the next 30 years?

The outstanding young farmers that I meet in my travels provide great stories and hope for agriculture’s future.  This month I’ll be meeting with a group of young dairy farmers in the Okanagan as a followup to a meeting with their parents last winter.

Both generations on the farm are typically very hard working.  I get lots of insights on what other young farmers might be thinking when I listen to the young farmer, our son, at our kitchen table.

Last night we were chatting about “sub-soiling” because the excess water on the Prairies has been tough for many folks who didn’t get a crop in, can’t get the crop out and are having severe cash flow crunches.

I think Morris Dorosh in his “If you ask me” column in Agriweek on September 20 really nailed this year when he said, “It takes nerves of tool steel to get through an experience like this without long-lasting effects.  The strain on families and personal relationships is extreme, a test of character that most people never have to pass.”

Character counts.

The Outstanding Young Farmer Awards announcements are glowing reports of young couples who possess strong character.  They have “gotten ready” to do well in their chosen field.

In coaching terms this means they have looked at what skills they need to learn, experimented and done some networking.  Their character usually reflects confidence, the ability to take risk, great communication skills, creativity and the ability to explore new skill sets and ways of thinking.

Are you confident that you can manage a profitable farm for the next 30 years?

After the roller-coaster ride of 2010 weather issues can you manage risk?

How are your communication skills on your farm team at those regular farm business meetings you need to be having?

What new skill sets do you need to develop over the winter to take on the new challenges of 2011?

How much time have you spent “just thinking” about what you want the farm business to look like after the stresses of this year?  Is it time for a new vision?

You might have to take off those negative filters, and ask for help with a strong team of financial advisers.

Our son is learning about “sub-soiling” at university where he is passionate about the amazing network of other crop managers that he interacts with.  The award-winning young farmers tell me that one of the highlights as an “Outstanding Young Farmer” award is the fact that they get to return yearly for alumni events.  The networking continues to flow ideas and plans for change back to their profitable operations.

Part of the “Getting ready to be a great farmer” also involves trying on new roles as possibilities, and not moving into long-term decisions.  Many young farmers are ready to take over the management reins before senior management (read Dad) is ready to let go.  Some of the new roles to test out might be working for a different style of leader away from the main business, or doing joint ventures with non-family members.

After a few harvests, young farmers with passion and vision want more certainty.  They want signed operating and partnership agreements, which move them to shareholder agreements and some terms of ownership.  Great farmers understand the value of turning the “sweat equity” of the younger generation into shares of the company.  Great farmers value the wealth that is captured and protected with the energy of youth.

Once the “getting ready” phase has lit the passions for growth in agriculture, young farmers are “ready to go for it.”

Here’s a list of what young farmers have told me they want:

  • A life.  Time with family is really cherished, and they don’t want to work as hard as their parents have.  As entrepreneurs they know 80-hour-plus weeks, but they will take time for fun and family.  Their social life may look different than yours.
  • Certainty.  They get tired of living in limbo or what William Bridges calls “the neutral zone” where decisions for legal agreements and transition of residence are continually put off.
  • Opportunity to choose.  When the younger generation comes home from the oilpatch or college they have new ways of looking at the farm operation.  It helps for them to have an enterprise that they can call their own.  It’s really hurtful to a young farmer’s pride and self-esteem when folks assume that they have been “handed everything by Dad.”
  • To be heard.  Young farmers want to know that their opinion counts.  They appreciate non-judgmental listening, and open-ended questions laced with curiosity and not communication killers.  “What would you like me to do differently?”  is a good place to start with both generations giving an honest answer.
  • Social connection.  Workaholic dads have issues with lack of relationships, so they work.  Young farmers are on Facebook, Twitter, AgChat, and texting their farmer friends while they work.  Young farmers need their networks and social time beyond the farm gate.
  • A skilful spouse.  The award winning Outstanding Young Farmers typically are a couple who pull in the same direction with shared vision and passion.  Their marriages are strong and have a high priority.
  • They want to use their head more than their back.  Young farmers have grown up “wired.”  They have no fear of technology, and just keep pressing buttons until they figure things out.  Their “techie” skills come in handy for setting the grain monitors, auto steer and helping figure out the GPS.

They have no problem using ag software, the BlackBerry or the Palm Pilot to track records.  You should train them to do the books and tracking.  This means letting go of some power and control, and seeing the opportunity for a really well-trained business planning team.  They’ll design your new website, and maybe even get you blogging!

  • To be globally smart.  Young farmers like to travel and learn about global agricultural issues, but let’s be realistic.  Advocates need to pay attention to the details they’re managing in their own farm businesses.  These young farmers can’t be off the farm for four days of meetings, so try to think of ways to meet virtually with phones, computers, and pre-meeting PowerPoint presentations.  The energy of youth and management responsibilities need to be considered when agricultural policy leaders expect the same old way of policy planning in person.  Women will be involved if they don’t have child-care issues, so webinars are a great tool for communication without leaving the farm.

Congratulations to all the young producers who are getting ready to be great farmers in their farm business team!

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.


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
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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
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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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