farm transition conversations

February 21, 2017, is a HUGE day for me. I feel like an expectant mother, (even at age 60!). February 21st marks the launch of our baby, the online course Get Farm Transition Unstuck. Why have I spent hundreds of hours with my co-writer Dr. Megan Mckenzie to create practical tools? Because young farmers frequently ask me:  “Elaine, how do we get the conversation about changes on the farm started?”  There is a longing look in their eyes, sometimes tears as they seek out help to talk to their parents about key issues the farm team knows they need to address. Let’s look at how we can help by starting with some tips on how to get those tough and tender transition conversations started.

9 Tips on How to Start Successful Transition Conversations

1. Show Up as Adults

You are young but skilled. Know that your parents are having sleepless nights rolling over scenarios in their heads that they just can’t sort out. It is a joy for me as a coach to work with farm teams who behave well as responsible adults. They choose to attack the issues, not the person delivering the ideas for change.

2. Understand That Transition Is a Journey

Like putting a large puzzle together with many pieces, it takes time. Patience is a virtue here. If you get ticked at your slow internet connection, you are likely not happy with the pace of change on your farm either. There are many vital plans to address; lifestyle, income streams, debt servicing, farm business viability, fairness to non-farm heirs, etc. Don’t let the anxiety of not knowing the plan or your sense of being overwhelmed keep you stuck. How is your attitude about doing the work required to meet with several different kinds of professionals? Are you willing to drive the process? Are you gracious and positive?

3. Spend Some Quiet Time with Yourself

Yes, in silence, thinking. Reflect deeply on what you really want to accomplish with your life, and with your conversations. What is your intent? If you intend to be a bully, be manipulative, be dramatic or threatening, the conversations for change are not going to work out well. When you get clear about your expectations, then you are ready to start communicating them to your spouse and your farm team. Text to 1-855-969-5300 and include “WHATIWANT” in the message line to receive a tool to help you do some hardcore reflecting.

[Tweet “Here are 9 #communication tips for starting those tough #farm transition talks.”]

4. Engage Your Spouse/Partner to See What They Want

Make sure you listen and paraphrase back to them what you think you heard them say. Many farm founders are avoiding the transition conversation because as a couple they are not agreed on what they can live with together. Mom and Dad may be fighting or tense with goals that just don’t align for the same purpose. For instance, Dad is happy to “keep being the hired man (employee)” but Mom is bent on traveling lots and leaving the main yard’s action. She wants a quieter pace, and Dad is energized to keep showing up at the shop at 8. The incidence of “gray” divorce is increasing. Divorce will really wreck havoc, so pay attention to goals and dreams that are being squished.

5. Brush Up on Your Conflict Resolution Skills

Embrace courageous conversations as a business risk management tool. You can find my webinars on “Better Family Fights” here. Use eye contact. Ask permission with the other person to make sure it is a good time to talk. Write out your key points on paper or notes on your phone if you think you need a script to stay on track. Make requests. Say “may I make a request, I have some important things to discuss, and I was wondering if Tuesday after lunch is a good time for you?” Share your intent, your big “why” this is so important for you to get out in the open.

6. Know That You Are Not Alone

Over 120,000 farms need to transition in Canada. The average age of a farmer in Canada is 54. I know a lot who are 66, 75, and 83 who are still avoiding starting the conversation about changes in management and ownership. I call this the tsunami of agriculture. Now that you know that you are not the only one on the prairies use this insight to bolster your courage and resolve to start asking the rest of your farm team for the changes you and your family need. You are getting older every day.  At age 40 you will no longer qualify for young farmer programs and loan rebates. At age 40 you will also feel lots of resentment if you have not had a plan or access path to building some of your own equity.

7. Visit Your Lender of Choice

Before you start talking about opportunities for equity or ownership you have to be comfortable with debt and have the ability to service it. This is why I send young farmers to FCC to see what their current net worth is, and how much debt they can service. It gives you data to talk to your parents about the reality of how much debt you are able to manage. It also shines a light on your living costs which are way more than $30,000 per year. Do you know what you need to keep the family living equation happy?

8. Build Your Tribe of Support

This might be other young farmers who have succeeded with their transition experience. They can be a huge emotional support to you. You can also read every blog and book that I have written to encourage you and give you practical skills to ask for what you and your family needs now.

9. Use Great Expertise

Marty Seymour of FCC suggested to me that perhaps the younger generation is not speaking out due to a sense of respect for their parents. This could be partly true as I see many well-educated thirty-something-year-old skilled young farmers who are super frustrated that their dreams are not turning into profitably executed goals. If this is you, consider a facilitator or coach for the process. Visit to see who is available in your province. I also encourage you to sign up for “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” to get all the tools you need to prepare for a successful farm transition.

You can do this. Get going now.

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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