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Conflict Resolution Between Farming Siblings (Especially Brothers)Siblings farming together can make for many different, interesting, and somewhat challenging dynamics, especially if one of them is a brother. Here are some of the most common issues that can arise with farming brothers and how founding farmers and siblings can handle them.

11 Common Issues Amongst Farming Siblings

1. Oldest Brother Syndrome

Birth order has been very well researched by Dr. Kevin Leman. Seek out his work for the different traits of first-born sons. My coaching experience tells me that some founders automatically default choosing the oldest son as successor which may not be a great idea if the younger sons or daughters have better skill sets for managing and leadership.

farming siblings - match the skill set to the task

Match the skill sets and passions to the jobs required on your farm. Hire out for gaps in skills that are missing.

2. Gender Bias

I know a farm family where the daughter is the main manager and her brother is a skilled mechanic who does not like to manage people. Where is it written that the brother needs to be the manager just because he does not take time off to birth babies?

The farming daughter needs to look for help in child care options. Her brother needs to learn more management skills to make their team stronger.

3. Work Ethic

“My brother likes to quit early, even when there is more work to be done.”

This is a very common complaint from those guys who work 70% harder than their farming brothers. This is likely a case of conflict avoidance where I would ask the brothers to track their time, so they have something that they can measure and discuss. The other side of this is the workaholic brother who never wants to spend time with family, yet you do.

Work/life balance is a polarity, a problem that never goes away and will always need to be managed. Make sure your spouse is aligned with your work value system, and the two of you are not feeling short-changed.

[Tweet “#Conflict between #farmsiblings can cause rough operations. Here’s how to fix some common issues.”]

4. Family Stages Vary

One brother is 15 years older and his kids are a lot further ahead than their cousins. You cannot “catch up” for the different stages and ages of the kids.

What you can do is figure out how the aging brother needs something different in terms of time and compensation than the younger brother. Older brothers resent young brothers who do not take responsibility for their actions. You might need to be patient to give your brother some maturing time.

5. Family Living Costs Vary

What is the combined family income of you and your off-farm income spouse? And your brother and his non-employed wife? This inequality of family income stream is not a problem to be fixed by the farm cash flow. This is a hot potato for discussion as to what roles on the farm are to be paid for. Some farm brothers expect all spouses to contribute labour (unpaid in some cases). Your spouse may have no interest in the farm, so she stays out of all things “farm”.

farming siblings - be open about finances with all generations

If you have an operating agreement which includes the income splitting percentages for your farm partnership, then you have a code of conduct to follow. If financial management is not healthy within the marriage, then it behooves the spouses to address the problem together and create solutions. Track your family living expenses so that you are aware and find ways to meet your farm cash flow demands properly. Talk about your resentment or frustrations openly as the farm cash flow has limits, (or does it?).

6. Relationship Status Vary

One brother is single, a bachelor. What are his plans for his personal land, and his estate? Is it rude to ask now for some future rights on purchasing his assets when he is ready to sell?

Single brothers may want to continue ownership of land as landlords. What written agreements could be put in place in order to give nephews and nieces an opportunity to buy an uncle’s equity? Does the bachelor have a legal written will, and who is his executor?

7. Divorce has Derailed my Brother

Long-term farming brothers have transition plans destroyed when divorce causes a financial strain on one brother’s family and the entire farm cash flow. Former spouses who leave the farm team with frustration have moved on, and you will need to let go of the “what if” thinking and make plans for the new scenario.

The huge cost of divorce may impede the divorced brother from following his original transition plan. He may need to work for another decade or more to recoup some of his financial setbacks.

8. My Brother is a Spender

“My brother loves new iron, and I am more cautious and conservative.”

Different financial management styles may have worked well when you were building up the farm over the last 20 years, but now a new perspective arrives with the energy and risk embracing next generation. How transparent are you with your financial situation to all generations on your farm team?

Learn to collaborate your decision making or create an exit plan to have separate enterprises that each brother manages on their own. What does the written business plan predict?

9. Destructive Patterns are Ruining Our Relationship

Drug and/or alcohol abuse are examples where substance abuse is ruining the ability of the players to make sound decisions for the farm. Be strong and get help. It is not a sign of weakness to go to the doctor for a physical yearly, or to ask for a referral to an addictions counselor.

The years of enabling bad behaviour are now over. Take a stand for what is emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy. Get the right professionals involved in treatment.

Farming siblings - destructive habits and fighting

10. My Brother Does Not Love Me

Seek healing for your emotional well being. You cannot force other people to treat you well if they choose otherwise. You are responsible for your behaviour and feelings. Consider seeing a counselor.

11. I Like Grain, My Brother Likes Cows

If there are different interest amongst farming siblings, it may be time to consider starting separate enterprises. What are the steps you need to take to start this process?

Take the time to talk with your brother and founding farmers about the possibility and begin the process by writing up a business plan.

What would the farm look like without sibling conflict? Working on these issues is the first step to a smooth running farm and a fair farm transition. For more great tools for smooth farm operations, sign up for the Farm Family Toolkit, here.

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.

$15

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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