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What To Do When Things Are Not Working OutIt’s summer, and you are wondering if this is the last season for you working on the farm because you are tired of chronic fighting.

No matter how hard you have worked at trying to get along and make things work, sometimes the conflict situation cannot be resolved.  You need to move on, realizing that you can only control your own actions. To continue in the muck takes endless energy, and it is draining you.

You can’t fix other people. You may try to influence them, but they are stonewalling, broken, or facing mental health issues that are barriers to functioning well, you need to let go.

Signs it is Time to Go

  • Losing sleep over a long period of time, more than a year, because you have gone through all the seasons of the farm, and nothing has changed. A year is enough time to think things over and make a shift.
  • When you cannot stop crying, kicking or have uncontrollable anger or prolonged sadness. Your stomach pains and headaches are signs that your body is not dealing well with internalized stress.
  • Your relationship to your spouse or partner and your children is rocky because of the farm team stress.
  • When you cannot stop talking about the fights, and the conversations keep reverting back to the same old story. People who care about you are telling you that they are sick about hearing about it, and they are concerned you are staying in the mess.
  • If it is costing you financially, farming should be profitable, and not a sinkhole for your outside resources.
  • If there is chronic conflict on the farm team, ask yourself “ Why are you still there?”
  • If you have tried farm coaching, mediation or counseling, using outside interventions, and things still don’t change. It is time to move on.
  • The grass is starting to look greener outside the farm fence, so you are starting to see other options for your life. For example, you finish your electrician ticket and move on a new career, or you move to the farm with your wife’s family.
  • You have deep value conflict issues, knowing you cannot negotiate value differences. For example,  younger families typically put a high value on work-life balance, while the founders often are workaholics, so the work ethic value will never be negotiated well. You need to accept that core values drive the way people do things and frame their expectations.
  • When your vision for the growth or sustainability of the farm is highly different from your business partners, you may see it as time to farm separately or follow other pursuits.
  • When a farm team member is violent, abusive, manipulative, or has a huge sense of entitlement sometimes this is an indicator that you need to leave more quickly, and end that farming relationship.

Step Back and Think Things Through

1. What is really important to you now, and what do you hope to see happen?

Identify where you want to be, and set your current priorities.

Example: economic goals, family goals, time goals.

2. What do you want the relationship to the family to look like when you leave the farm?

Know that you don’t have to stay so physically close or emotionally close to them. You get to decide the healthy boundaries of the relationship. You may need some “cooling off “ time. If relationships are super nasty, you may not be able to continue any communication or only have very limited contact with certain criteria.

3. What are your options for exiting? This is tough and complex depending on how intertwined you are with the farm business. My experience is that few farm families have operating or partnership agreements that clearly spell out how one partner leaves the business.

Sort out the financial implications of leaving. What will be the assets you take with you? What is your new income stream going to be?  Have you updated your resume or sought assistance from an employment counselor?

4. Where would you live next ?

Many farms own all the houses on the property. Leaving the family business can also mean leaving your house behind. Just the threat of looking for a new home in town, or the next community, may be the tipping point to start a reconciling conversation to force change.

5. How do you want to be family when it is all said and done?

Richness in a relationship comes with hard work to make it work, and intentionality. Grandparents long to see their grand-kids, and farming sons and daughters who leave, want some kind of connection, on their own terms. What baby steps can you take to build up your emotional bank account with your family? Is your spouse willing to engage in this process with you?

6. What are your timelines and deadlines for each element of the change?

For example, in the next two weeks, “I am writing my resume, and looking online or asking around for jobs.”

Look at new training possibilities, allow yourself to dream. There are new opportunities.

Make an appointment with the accountant to figure out the asset mix and financial implications of leaving the farm partnership.

Consider using a counselor or mediator to define the healthy boundaries you are willing to accept with your family relationships.

Write down your goals and vision for the next chapter of your life.

7. Network with friends, and find your support group for this transition. This might be tricky if all your friends are very intertwined with your business life. Perhaps professionals, or far away friends will give a clearer perspective.

8. Grieve the losses and celebrate your successes.

Any time you move into a new phase of your life, you need to let go of things in order to create space for new opportunities. You may have sadness, anger, and sense of loss as you grieve what could have been.  You have given up all hope of a better past and any dreams that you had for your farm.

Be proud of the accomplishments that you have achieved in your time on the farm, however small they may be.

9. Resist the urge to cave in, if your decision is well thought out and agreed upon with your spouse. Tough decisions have tough consequences, and this is not going to be easy.

How Will Others React to You Leaving?

1. Foot stomping and door crashing:  Anger will erupt since you have  messed up the “status quo.” Anger comes fear, hurt and frustration with the loss of relationship and power.

2. Exclusion from the will, family gatherings, “inside family information” may occur when people grasp for ways to inflict hurt or revenge. Threats and bad behaviour are symptoms of a larger problem of not being able to adapt to change and let go graciously.

3. Sometimes people need time to process change and figure it out. Behaviour may improve a few months down the road when the family reaches a new kind of equilibrium.

4. Relief and gratefulness may be expressed when all is said and done. Imagine what the neighbours might say, but pay attention to what immediate family is expressing. A middle-aged farm woman once thanked me as the coach,  for “giving her her husband back”, once the farm separation was complete.

5. The neighbours are going to talk. Know what the family script is for the exit, in other words, “what are we going to tell our friends and neighbours?” The more united and positive everyone on the farm team can be, the better the transition. The script is what you have decided to say in one sentence when people ask about what is going on with the farm.  Here is a sample script:

“We are making changes that benefit all of our family, and we are looking forward to the new chapter for our farm.”

6. Non-farm heirs and siblings will also have an opinion. What is your plan for how much detail and information they need to have?

 I’d like to hear your stories of exiting well. Dr. Megan McKenzie and I are working on the book “Farming’s In-Law Factor. Contact www.elainefroese.com/contact  or call 1-866-848-8311. Go to Farm Family Coach to “like” Elaine on Facebook.

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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