I smile knowingly as I read the farmer’s checklist, he wants to “avoid the mistakes farmers typically make” in succession planning. I don’t pretend to have the exhaustive list, but in eight years of coaching I have seen many scenarios that you don’t want to repeat.

What mistakes?

Poor self care. Your body is not a machine yet you ignore the things your body is telling you. Headaches and gut pains may be a signal that you are not dealing with conflict well, you continue to avoid the crucial conversations the younger generation is begging you for.

Poor marriage care. You’ve noticed that your spouse is a bit more distant lately, yet you just shrug it off and go out to the shop. She’s been showing you some house designs and real estate deals in town, but you are not the least bit interested in talking or considering moving off the home place. You’ve been here 42 years, so why move now? The big mistake here is that you really have no respect for your spouse’s needs and changing goals.

Need for power and control. My oldest client is past 95. This is not a happy tale, because it means they have had a hard time relinquishing title to the land, and giving up power and control.  The mistake here is that the next generation has not been compensated for sweat equity, and has no leverage of assets for their own debt decisions for growth and security.

Lack of appreciation. When each generation takes the other for granted, a lot of hurt and resentment clouds good decision making. Tom Hubler, a family business coach from Minnesota, counts lack of appreciation as one of his top three stumbling blocks for good succession planning.

Fear of failure or greed. It’s a very sad day when the legacy of the farm business can’t carry on to the next willing generation because the founder is so bound up with fear of failure or greediness. I’ve seen great operations wind down because the founder is hanging on too tightly to his net worth and not understanding that he certainly has enough for his future well-being. There’s a money attitude script here that is playing out when someone has built a business with the help of a successor, yet refuses to share the wealth or acknowledge who helped create and keep the wealth.

No personal wealth bubble. This is the term Merle Good of Alberta uses to describe the assets outside of the farm business that help out non-farm income streams and add flexibility to dealing with non-business heirs. The farm families that have kept pouring all the cash back into the farm and have not put anything in a personal wealth plan are strapped, unless they like the thought of living frugally on their meager government pensions, and being at the mercy of their children’s financial help. Or some farm assets will need to be sold to generate cash for living.

Shelle Rose Charvet who is a master of NLP, neuro-linquistic programming, talks about avoidance or “away from” behaviour, and “toward” behaviour. We are all moving away from things, or moving toward goals that excite us. Most farmers resonate with the “avoid mistakes” phrase because farmers are wired to solve problems and avoid disasters.  When you live your life from a perspective of “avoidance”, is that a really positive motivator for you? Or do you prefer to move “toward” something?

I think that many farmers are not making plans for transferring management and ownership to the next generation because they have nothing to move toward.  Being the “hired man again” as a semi-retired farmer is only exiting if you have a great working relationship with your successor, clear boundaries and role expectations, and a spouse who is aligned with your desire to never retire. An Iowa study found that less than 30% of farmers ever retire. Most folks want to stay active to some degree, the difficulty is having communication and conflict resolution systems in place to keep that clear with both the founders and successors.

So where do you start to be more pro-active and less reactive to mistakes?

Take good care of yourself emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Reward yourself with things that you find pleasurable and enjoyable in the present moment rather that saying “When I am 65 I will do this…” You are more likely to take action and change your behaviour when you have something to look forward to. For your marriage care this may mean some marriage time discussion about what is fun for you both as a couple, and how you may have to do things with friends while your partner stays home to do what they want to do. Most farm moms that I meet are very tired of their very over-active roles, and they want to know that their needs for less activity, and more recreation are going to be met…in the proper seasons.

Ask your son and daughter and their spouses about their timelines for agreements and transition. Giving up power and control to a well trained successor who is groomed and ready should not have to be that hard, if you have done a good job of teaching, training, and sharing responsibilities. Remember what it felt like when you took over from your dad. Why is it so hard to think that your successor doesn’t need the same chance to prove themselves and do well?  The “letting go” can be done in stages, not all at once, but it does need to happen, otherwise your successors are going to pack up and move out in frustration with “nothing ever changes around here.”

Make a conscious effort to show appreciation to all of your farm team in many different ways. Talking may not be your thing, but no one can read minds, so it really helps to use words and good listening skills. One huge mistake is fathers and sons who only work together no longer have any memory of having a friendship or fun together beyond the farm work gate. Can you find some time to play together this winter?

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
“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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