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Happy Christmas in the CountryIf I were to ask you about the top ten things that make a great Christmas celebration for you, what would you answer? Most families that I work with want to maintain family harmony, or get back on track again as “a happy family.” Dr. Nikki Gerrard’s research of farm families found that one of the ways that families keep resilient or strong is through celebration.

Recently I met a family who decided it was high time to reinstitute monthly Sunday dinners at the home farm. This was a chance for the farmers and non-farmers to keep connected as a family and have a real thread of conversation to keep “in the loop” about farm activities. Everyone is proud of their multi-generation farm, and they want the legacy of happy farm memories to continue.

Christmas for you may be about making memories. Sometimes our expectations are not met, and yet we can still be content and grateful for the celebration that transpired.

One Christmas in New Zealand, we were embraced by a farm family who gave us stockings filled with New Zealand specialties, a Church service, and a delicious meal. The delightful part for the kids was seeing Gramps shoot a rabbit and skin it. This event was not on my list of “things to happen to be a great Christmas memory.” Sometimes we just have to let go and live in the present moment. If you do not have huge expectations of perfection, you might be surprised at the simple pleasures of celebrating together that bring you joy.

Richness in a relationship is paramount to me. That is why I just took down last year’s Christmas photos that were encroaching on the wall space of a favorite oil painting. Folks come into my home and review the faces on the wall to identify themselves, or a connection to a familiar visage.

We Are All Longing for Connection

Gerrard’s research also showed that the more resilient farm folks stayed connected to their community and each other. Sadly, there are fewer “friendly” farmers, according to some interviews I have done recently with farm managers challenged to expand their land base. The old rural etiquette of treating neighbors with kindness and respect is being eroded. Folks who rent land for two decades are not necessarily the ones given first right of refusal to purchase the soil that they have nurtured for many harvests. Some neighbors do not have time to chat anymore.

What kinds of connections are you longing for this month?

I smile inwardly when folks ask “Are you ready for Christmas?” as if it is a badge of some weird martyrdom type honor to say  “I will never get it all done!” Happy people do not care what the house looks like, and whether the cookies are from Martha Stewart’s recipe collection. Families are longing to linger at the table of hospitality and friendship. Christmas will come “ready or not!”

Sadly in our neighborhood, life-long friends have moved west, north to the city, and some have stopped calling for a visit. Maybe it is time to be intentional about reconnecting with family and friends. A phone call or text is easy, yet so many people do not decide to reach out and communicate the invitation to share life and make new memories.

[Tweet “12 ways you can celebrate #Christmas on the #farm with new & old connections.”]

Tips to Celebrate Connection this Christmas:

  1. Invite a foreign student or single person from your community to share a meal, coffee, or Christmas at your home.
  2. Ask your local Christmas Cheer Board what day they need you to help wrap gifts, and donate practical gifts, especially for men.
  3. Help out at the local Food Bank. We hope to help serve at the Christmas Day community dinner that serves folks who usually would be celebrating solo.
  4. Bake cookies with your grandchildren and box them in the freezer for the parents as a surprise.
  5. Go through the winter hat and mittens collection to see what you can recycle to the local thrift store.
  6. Call a young mother (daughter-in-law) with your offer to spend 3 hours watching her children while she attends to some needed self-care.
  7. Snowblow someone’s lane secretly!
  8. Ask a widow/widower if their family is coming home for Christmas. If she or he is slow to answer, make sure you pick them up to spend time at your home.
  9. Visit www.buynothingchristmas.org and be thankful for all the material gifts you enjoy. Write a note of appreciation to each of your children for the delight they bring to your life, and why they are special to you. If the kids are causing you grief, write that child a letter of encouragement with your vision for their future.
  10. Take out lots of great home decorating magazines from your library like “Real Simple” and repurpose your pine cones, candles, and rose-hips growing in the ditch. Have some fun playing with natural objects and finding treasures buried in your home. The MALL parking lot is way too crowded at this time of year, avoid the hassle of crowds, and enjoy “putzing” with what you already have.
  11. Call your best friend who lives too far away and have tea with her while you both enjoy a chat on the phone or the delight of Skype.
  12. Celebrate fun things with your farm family. Cut the talk about business, and move the big decisions or family business meeting to the 28th of December. Decide just to be a family and let go of the business conversations for the moment.

You are creating a legacy of good memories. The snow forts, pond skating, the sleigh rides, the winter marshmallow roasts, the log stacking…whatever your family decides to do just for fun’s sake…do it!

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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