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Many moms this September will carefully snap a photograph of their kids, backpack in hand, sporting new clothes for the first day of school. My friend Jan has a wonderful archival display in her kitchen of her children’s first day of school shots from grade one through to university. The first day of a new school year is a pretty big deal, but what about all those seemingly ordinary days on the farm or in town, that you wish you would have captured, if you had known your life would drastically change?

I am writing this in July on the way home from a professional speakers’ conference where I had to privilege to hear Chad Hymas’s story. Chad was crushed by a 2000-lb bail in an open tractor with faulty hydraulics that he had “just not gotten around to fixing.” He now impacts the lives of thousands sharing the reality of his life as a C-4 quadriplegic. Chad’s strong farm hands have withered to curled thin tools. He showed us the only picture from his archives, a single photo of his strong hands in a family shot that reminds him how quickly things can change.

At that same conference I received sad news that a wonderful, talented man who had worked alongside us for only a year, had just passed away from a second battle with cancer. This amazing cheerful fellow had landed at our farm to fulfill a dream of working with big farm equipment, and we welcomed his talent to envision, create and build things for the good on our operation. One of the first things I thought of was his family picture that graces the spot where he shared supper with us on a regular basis, and the 2009 harvest shots that are now priceless, as 2009 was his first and last harvest with us.

Why am I telling you these sad stories?

I want you to start appreciating the ordinary things of your day and your life that you are taking for granted, especially the people sharing your journey. There is an “AGRI-moments” photography firm in southern Ontario that is now hanging out with farm families as they work to capture the cows, the farm kitchen table, and the feelings of pride in the farm folks whose weathered faces under ball caps and tanned bodies are working hard to provide great food for this world. The company produces these one-of–a-kind books that serve as a special gift to mark an anniversary, a milestone birthday, or just because. (www.agrimoments.com )

How many pictures are there of you tending the garden or the flower beds? Do you have a shot of your hubby in front of his favorite truck, or raking the lawn with his grandchild? The everyday things of life become highly charged when a loved one departs this world, and you realize that you never really captured his or her essence on film… be that in black and white, sepia tones or colour photos, or on video.

Just after I learned the news of our employee’s death, I was sitting in the memorial time of the convention as Jana Stanfield (www.janastanfield.com ) played her guitar and sang “ If I had only known.”

Jan sings: If I had only known it was our last walk in the rain, I’d keep you out for hours in the storm,  I would hold your hand like a lifeline to my heart, and underneath the thunder we’d be warm…if I had only known…”

Perhaps you are using the fall months to line up some purposeful winter projects after the beets are in the jar, and the bulbs are dug. How about setting aside one evening a week to archive the photos you have, make a collage, and take the snapshots that are missing from the extraordinary family you belong to, the family that just does ordinary things?

When someone dies without much time to say goodbye, there are often regrets or what I call “grief spasms” that remind us of our loss. If I had only known that my mom was going to have an asthma attack in the middle of harvest, I would have phoned her on the night I thought deeply about her, after I had delivered the meals to the field. I thought of her while I was crossing the yard. The last time I heard my mom’s voice was a night my house was full of Sunday guests, and she was looking for “Judy’s apple pie filling recipe.” If only I had known… our last conversation might have been different.

I have heard of widows who gently refuse to erase the voice mail of their spouse’s voices on the answering machine. How about doing some digital recording of the fun stories your kids, grandchildren and other relatives would love to share? My husband Wes and I once listened to his mom’s story on a cassette tape while we were driving to his mom’s sister’s funeral. It was an amazing ride. Mom’s voice comforted us, and helped us celebrate the aunt’s life. The aunt was a beloved sister who died just six short weeks after Mom.

If you had known that it was going to freeze last night, with a killing frost, you might have run out to the garden in your nightie to cover the tomatoes. Yes, I too am glad that the neighbours aren’t able to see my late night garden attire, but aren’t you thankful for another few weeks of delicious home-grown food? Wes is never sad when the beets or zucchini freeze, and I’m delighted that I can now buy canned beets at my farmers’ market, for me.

If you had known that your friend was having her sixtieth birthday the night you invited her over for supper, you might have baked a cake. I discovered at the last minute that my friend was turning sixty the night she and her hubby shared our supper table. I am thankful that my stash in the gift drawer had something she liked.

I am also thankful that the flames of tissue paper that ignited when her gift wrapping touched the votive candle centerpiece only caused a small fire!

If you had known that the fire would consume your belongings… you might have renewed or upgraded your household insurance.

There are so many things that we need to manage in our households, but some of them are only stuff. People and the joyous memories of the richness of our relationships cannot be replaced by stuff.

Would you be willing to spend the price of four bags of seed canola on a book that captures the essence of your farm family on an “ordinary day.” I would.

I might rearrange the household finances to find a way to treasure the memories of fun in the barn, straw forts, spring rafting, chasing cows, or riding horses with “Pappy” or “Nanna.”

The night before my friend Karen’s father died, she felt led to take a photo of his hands. He had struggled for a decade with a chronic illness, yet never complained. He modeled gratitude and grace right to the end of his life. His name was Bob McRuer, and because of some of his hard visionary work and others, there is a Boundary Trails hospital today between Winkler and Morden. That’s the same hospital that gave sanctuary to our employee.

What do you know in your heart that you need to do today, so that tomorrow doesn’t catch you saying: “If I had only known?”

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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