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Love Does Not Read Minds - Being Fair in Farm TransitionAn amazing group of Alberta farmers shared their deepest fears about farm transition with me at the 2018 Agriculture Service Board Conference. They texted me their biggest issues regarding fairness in transition planning.

The Biggest Issues Regarding Fairness in Transition Planning

I thought you might like to see what resonates with you in this list of texts (no particular order).

  • What I have had to come to grips with in our farm situation is that we have no next generation farmers in a succession plan, while I have an emotional attachment to my land, my children and my brother’s children do not.
  • Listening to each other fairly is an issue. How do we deal with non-farming family members?
  • Narcissists – There is too much negativity.
  • We have big talkers…people who over promise and under deliver. They are not being forthright.
  • Over taxation. Government policies. King Justin’s cut. Tax.

    “All are created equal. Just some are a little more equal than others. “ -Orwell.

  • My fairness issue is a small family farm with 4 daughters of whom only 1 wants to come back but I fear there might be a split up in that daughter’s family. (divorce threat)
  • The older generation will not let go. They are having control issues and they expect me to farm the same way they did.

Farm transition with siblings

  • Who gets the homestead?
  • How to be fair with 3 boys. Also, bringing kids into the farm.
  • Siblings – Having greedy siblings when fairness should prevail, especially a greedy sister-in-law.  There is always someone who feels they have been done out of something. Almost everything is going to one sibling, which is making it hard to deal with siblings that have never been on the farm.
  • Splitting up the farm – We need to find a balance between siblings. With having 10 brothers and sisters, the sisters are getting half the land and the parents don’t want to talk about the transition. Our parents won’t let me buy out our sisters. I pray my wife will inherit lots of cash so I can buy out sister. When I ask Dad about vision legacy he says “build your own.”
  • Money. Money. Money. Should you be gifting the farm or selling it to them?
  • Second marriage families.
  • Substantial increases in land values.

    “We have heirs to the loan, no heirs to the throne.”

  • With only having one of four children on the farm, how soon should we have the succession talk? At what age for the kids and the parents is acceptable? Should you be looking at your farm more as a business and allow the children with the most capable skills run and take over the spread?
  • Clarity in choice, finding balance, then doing it.
  • What do you do when it’s dangerous to have all family members sitting in the same room? Our issue is trying to have a conversation without someone getting angry.
  • Changing the guard – How do you get the founder to not have the “work all day” attitude, and how do you actually give the founder a deadline and convince them to step away from the farm activity?
  • Someone sent a colourful quote:

    “I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind, its what you leave behind when you go.”

  • We need mechanisms that will allow for a reasonable financial entry point for specifically young/new farming family members.
  • Equality doesn’t always appear equal. So, if we step back would step one not be to make sure the initial business plans for those currently owning or purchasing the business be to put our vision statements and goals on paper? Wouldn’t we make the future transition be easier if we started off on the same page with a similar vision? (Get the Farm Family Toolkit, here, at the bottom of the page!)
  • Transfer of decision making – I struggle with taking over the management decisions from my father who wants to work in the business every day but never work ON the business. Working on the business is almost looked down on as avoiding “real work”. I think his generation was built on the basis of the harder and longer you worked the more money you made. Plus he was subsidized by my mother’s nursing wage. It is a struggle to turn the farm into a stand-alone profitable business and support a different generation with increased lifestyle costs.
  • Fair isn’t always equal and equal isn’t always fair.  Our daughter-in-law is a non- farmer. She has no interest in the family farm. (I am seeing this as a trend in agriculture now.)
  • Why should a son or daughter feel like they’re entitled to anything?
  • If I push too hard on tough subjects they may push me out.

[Tweet “The key to getting everything you want in your #farm #transition is by being open about #fairness.”]

What Do Farmers Expect From Their Parents or Children?

Opportunity, love, support?

Farm transition - communication

The key to a successful farm transition plan is good communication. Parents need to be open to what their children want and expect of the farm and/or its assets. Children need to be understanding of parents who are afraid to let go of the farm or are trying to include everyone in the transition, even non-farming children.

What is Success to You?

Success to me is working alongside my hubby, raising our babies on our farm while maintaining a healthy relationship with my parents, who own our farm, and the rest of the family who is on and off the farm.

Success is ensuring everyone in our family has enough work to fill their time and enough time to do their work.

My definition of fairness is helping everyone be successful. If you would like a transcript of my notes, text FAIRNESS (use ALL CAPS) in the message line to 1-587-800-4323 and you will get my thoughts on “FAIR”: Financial transparency, Attitudes towards money, Intent, and Roles.

My farm audiences are rich with ideas that are keeping them stuck, but when they start to drill down on what is the stumbling block to getting transition plans activated, it usually distills down to a fairness issue.

“Elaine, what’s been helpful in this discussion is to see and understand that others (families) are having similar issues as our family. We are not on the journey alone. Each business is as unique as a fingerprint and no two are the same. You can creatively structure yourself for future transitions. Communication is the key to the success of any business model.” says the Ontario farmer in my seminar.

Farm transition planning success

Take a highlighter to this article and make your own personal list of fairness issues that your farm team needs to talk about. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t let the fear of conflict stop your discussion. You can do this. Remember, “Love does not read minds”, you need to share what is in your head and heart.

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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