In the last blog post, I talked about the fabulous 2015 AgExcellence Conference, hosted by Farm Management Canada in Regina. As part of the conference, young farmers contributed to a Twitter feed called “We Wish Parents Understood.” Although I was not able to attend, I did see the Twitter feed and now I’d like to express my take on their comments based on years of coaching young farmers.

The List of “We Wish Parents Understood”

1. Work/life balance.

2. This is 2015.

3. Let’s get a plan.

4. Parents are entitled to retire.

5. Partners get to choose, they don’t have to be involved.

My Reflections

Work/Life Balance:

It’s a new year and February has this celebration called Valentines Day. I recall one wife accosting me at a farm show to say thank-you for the best February birthday she had ever had. Apparently her husband was in my audience and heard my encouragement to “date your wife” – show up with cards, flowers, and an invitation for a restaurant meal. He followed through for the first time in their 24 year old marriage and she was shocked, but thrilled to be cherished in that way.

I often tell audiences that the next generation is not willing to put in the long work hours that the parents have, and the heads nod in agreement. Unfortunately, I think “balance” is a misnomer, as it is something that is never done, and always needs to be negotiated in the family. It is also tied to the question of farm growth. Is this farm big enough? Can we sustain the pace of work already required? Could we become more efficient with what we already have? How can we get a workaholic father/founder to realize that “we are not him” ever?

As with most tough issues, this one requires communication about reasonable expectations. The urgency here is to protect the marriage and family values of each couple. If the farming son values tucking his son into bed with stories, grandpa better stop fuming in the field. If the marriage crumbles due to lack of attention, you have a bigger threat to handle, and it is called “divorce.” Be intentional about building fun into your farm week.

This Is 2015

I think this aligns with embracing change, or “that was then, this is now.” Some things, like lack of neigbourly visits and parties, aren’t happening anymore in my neighbourhood. I wish I was present to hear the backstory of this comment. It also speaks to new ways and approaches to farming. I see this with the next generation being quicker to outsource tasks like book-keeping or custom work that pencils out better with the skill sets they want to offer to the farm. It also means embracing new technologies, and using the computer to analyze data for better decision making. Take away my son’s internet for research and he would be crippled.

[Tweet “What young #farmers wish their parents understood – insights from #AgExConf 2015:”]

“The Plan”

Say this out loud with a gruff, deep voice. Young farmers have high anxiety and stress with not knowing what “the Plan” is for their future options to build equity and create financial security for their growing families.  Let’s take the complex and make it simpler.

Break your plans down to communication with one another for clarity of expectations, a lifestyle plan that outlines the income stream needed for family living for both generations, a succession plan with timelines as to when the management and ownership pieces will start shifting, and a business plan for the vision of the farm in the next 5 years. The estate plan is for death, so get the wills updated, and have an enduring power of attorney with your spouse, and an alternate.

There…was that complicated? No, just a series of plans that are inter-related. Ask me for my $10 binder tabs ( ), and I’ll get you started. The plan may also involve a discussion of where the parents plan to live for the next 15 years, and who is available to help with child care on and off the farm.

Parents Are Entitled to Retire.

Parents are entitled to retire, but 30% of farmers in Iowa never do! I prefer the term re-invention, as the parent’s roles change to suit the needs of the new management of the younger generation. Compassionate farm dads and moms make great mentors, and the young farmers appreciate gracious wise elders who are happy to make collaborative decisions with the energy of youth and the wisdom of experience.

If the parents have been wise to create a “personal wealth bubble” outside of the farm’s accounts, they may have funds to play, travel, and gift to non-biz heirs without creating too much stress on the farm’s cash flow. The main point here is to have a full-blown exploration with the parents as to what a good day to them is like for them on the farm in their re-invention years. The message from my 70 something audience in Alberta  was  “don’t wait until after 65 to travel, do it earlier while you still have your health to enjoy it!” I enjoy the millennials who tell me that their parents deserve to enjoy the fruit of their labour of over 40 years, and they desire that the parents have fun!

Partners Getting to Choose

In 2016 a good percentage of young farmers have two jobs, one on the farm and one away. Some folks who are married to farmers choose not to get involved in the farm business at all. They create a very clear boundary that states, “I married you, not the farm!”  Older folks don’t like to hear this. In their perfect world everyone on the farm regardless of gender or roles, pitches in, especially in the busy seasons of spring planting and harvest.

My coaching conversations have revealed amazing incomes and energy for other careers that young women especially are not appreciated for. Their off-farm income allows the farm spouse to churn funds back into farm growth, yet their contribution of cash flow for family living is not appreciated or recognized by the founders.

Again, the best remedy for this mis-alignment of values is to have courageous, transparent conversations about what roles work for you and which ones you cannot embrace.


What would you add to the list that you wish your parents understood?

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

Book Elaine
for your next event

Contact Elaine to start the conversation.

+1-204-534-7466 | elaine(at)

Contact Elaine