Creating a Firewall Against Divorce on the FarmHis face was weathered and worn as he approached me with wrinkled brows. “You talked about the fear of spousal break-up, and I’m curious how do I create a firewall to protect my farm?” (Note he said “my farm,” not OUR farm).

The firewall word picture fits our computer’s security, but I wonder if the approach of building a wall of protection around your farm is a good analogy?

Who and What Do You Want to Keep Out?

1. The In-Laws?

I have witnessed farm teams who have a strict policy of not letting any spouses of the business partners have decision making power. This is not my value system, where I think many minds together can collaborate with respect to make great business plans and execute many different skill sets. What if your daughter-in-law, the graduate from plant science would make a great agronomist on your farm? Keeping out skilled workers on the basis of their marital status is not smart.

2. The Trouble Makers?

Many farm business meetings go off track because adult siblings cannot stay calm and collected as they express their views. They are likely exhausted, suffering from role overload, and likely need to hire outside help. Folks who earn bad reputations with consistent bad behavior are part of the conflict avoidance culture of agriculture. I have said before, that you are getting the behavior that you accept. Why are you not asking the angry person what their true issue is? Can you do a conflict dynamic profile and get to the bottom of their hot buttons? I provide these tools online for a small fee of 40 dollars per person.

3. The Girlfriends or Boyfriends?

Once adult children start dating and joining living space with partners or spouses, you get to choose if you are going to learn alongside them or judge them forever for making what you think is a poor life mate decision. Get over it. It’s not just young people who bail out of relationships after a few hard years of not being able to adjust, it could also be the founder’s spouse who is ditching a 33-year marriage for new pastures. Divorce is part of reality for many families. If you check out my blog “How to Prevent Divorce on the Farm” you’ll recall that once the partnership of love is formed, you’ll likely have a stronger healthier firewall if there is tons of love and respect to go around for everyone. Respectful communication helps, too.

4. The Mentally Ill?

I have seen transition plans stall out due to the inability of the family members struggling with mental health issues and their refusal to seek medical or psychological help or treatment. Depression may have seven different forms. If someone on your team just doesn’t seem to be happy, stops connecting with friends, or doesn’t want to get out of bed, you need to find help. Rather than planning for a firewall, how about reaching out to your family doctor, mental health worker or counselor?

5. The Addicts?

Working too much is a common farm trait that drives marriage apart when the cows are deemed more important than the human relationship as a couple. Alcohol addiction can also cause folks to stop trying to repair an issue that needs to be addressed by the person with the disease. Again, addictions cannot be stopped by having a firewall of agreements on paper, they require that the person suffering get past their denial and seek help.

Prenuptial agreements and marriage contracts may be a tool that your farm wants to explore. I advise you to seek out a great agriculturally aware lawyer and get a solid word of mouth referral from farmers who have witnessed good work. Don’t be stuck by bad stories and assume no lawyer is going to be helpful. Seek out CAFA to search the directory of law firms that specialize in ag. I would recommend John Stewart and Mona Brown in Manitoba as two of my top picks.

[Tweet “7 tips to help #farmers build a #firewall to prevent #divorce on the farm.”]

I know a 90-year-old farm woman who is in her second marriage to a farmer over 90 who is in his 3rd marriage. They have a prenuptial agreement to keep their farm estates separate. Each day to them is a definite gift.

Another farm daughter who recently remarried was very clear with her new husband that he and his children would not be entitled to her farm assets which she just recently inherited from her farming parents. They have a prenuptial agreement in place as well.

We all know that paper contracts can help people behave better. We also recognize that when a couple commits to loving each other forever, 50% of marriages fail. These sobering facts might drive you to take a different approach than building a wall.

Building a Firewall Against Divorce

Build Love and Respect

Be the gracious person that attracts amazing success by the way you treat others.

Give Everyone a Voice at the Decision-Making Table and Input for the Farm’s Vision

If folks buy into the vision they are more likely to keep working in good times and in bad.

Treat Illness When it First Appears

Don’t allow secret keeping around tough issues like mental illness, dementia, and addiction. Build a circle of support around the person who is ill.

Face Your Fears

Strong farmers with rough hands and weathered faces are allowed to cry. So are the female farmers who are well-educated and feeling like they can not find a path to shine on their farms. If the crying is chronic, seek medical help.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

There are great lawyers, accountants, financial planners, and coaches who can help you navigate the ways to create more certainty for the security of your farm assets.

Have a  Marriage Contract Agreement as Part of Your Standard Business Policy

So that each potential successor who weds gets the same treatment as their siblings or cousins who have gone before them.

Make Quick Repairs

See good conflict resolution as a great risk management tool for your farm and your farm’s future. You use firewalls on your computers. Technology helps us, but we still need to be able to ask another person, “Are you okay? Would you like me to do something differently? What is it that I am doing that is pushing your hot button?”

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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