Challenge the Unwritten Farm Rules: Bringing Farm Expectations into 2018

Susan Forward who authored “Emotional Blackmail” has a simple tool changing the way people have always done things. She says all you have to ask is “Where is it written?”. This is great! As we continue to get further into 2018, many farmers are stuck in old gender roles and are scared to challenge them. It is time to stop that. Here are some common unwritten farm rules that you should be ready to change.

Challenging Unwritten Farm Rules

Large Farm Vegetable Gardens

“Where is it written…that in order to be a good farm woman you need to grow a garden”

Well, that comment by me in front of 300 women in Saskatoon lit a Twitter fire. It is 2018, and there is good food available down the road at the local farmer’s market, the neighbour who has a bountiful garden, and the grocery store that is open 7 days a week. Women and men who hate gardening would be wise to let that go.

Just for the record, I like to garden, and I just planted my 37th garden this spring. My goal with this blog post is to have you reflect on updating your expectations for the many roles you keep adding to your job list on your farm, whether you are male or female. It might be time to communicate expectation adjustments with your spouse.

The “Clean” House

“Where is it written…that in order to be a good farm woman you need to clean the house?”

What is workable for the family to function well, and what tasks can be shared by the kids and the other spouse? More young mothers are hiring cleaners, yet some of them are being judged as being lazy.

If you have off-farm income and are managing a full line of household duties, you might want to hire help. If you are a stay at home mom, you also may want to hire help to help your mental wellness if you are feeling overwhelmed. Or you may want to let go of perfection. I am just saying the cleanliness of the house needs to be negotiated as your stage of family life and the farm life demands may mean adjustments in expectations need to be made. I also recommend picking flooring that is the same colour as dried mud. This is why my back-door mat is gray.

Homemade Pies and Other Baking

“Where is it written…that in order to be a good farm woman you need to bake?”

unwritten farm rules - baking

Farmers love pie. I buy pumpkin pies for under $4 at my CO-OP, the only grocery store in town, and I don’t feel guilty that it is not homemade. When homemade pie is on my plate I am truly grateful for the loving hands that fashioned it (sometimes mine). No one can make you feel guilty without your consent. So, if you’re not a baker, don’t feel guilty about it! I keep a jar of almonds as a snack for my spouse who loves the convenience of nuts when he is famished.

Writing Christmas Cards and Thank-You Notes

“Where is it written…that in order to be a good farm woman you need to write all christmas and thank you cards”

I love to get snail mail. I am a writer and love the power of words, especially ones that you can savour in hand-written notes. If you do have the time to say thank-you to your in-laws or text your friends, do it. However you choose to express appreciation is a great building block for more respect and harmony on your farm. Say thanks.

You are not required to write Christmas cards in order to be well thought of. Do what works for what time you have to spend. Comparing your Pinterest posts will steal your joy. Do what works for the time you have to spend, and what your financial budget accommodates.

[Tweet “Being part of the #farm #family, doesn’t require you to follow these unwritten #rules.”]

Childcare From Parents

“Where is it written that children can only be cared for by their parents?”

Some farm grandparents are longing for more grandchild time and some have too much. Again, communication of your realistic expectations for times with child care is your call. Ask for what you need and be clear about what is workable for you at this stage of your life.

Young moms can barter child care with other young moms. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. With larger equipment on farms, it is important to keep child safety a priority regardless of who is driving. Many young moms are operating large equipment and could use more daycare options or a nanny.


“Where is it written…that in order to be a good farm woman you need to iron”

unwritten farm rules - ironing

Ironing for me is relaxing, but I typically only iron dress shirts and napkins. Yes, I use cloth napkins and do not purchase paper towels. I like cloth rags, too. Boomers may still iron jeans, but not me. I have fond memories of ironing tea towels for my farm mom, but that is gone now with the use of Norwex towels! I think it’s helpful to question why you do the things you do and understand that “different is not wrong, it is just different.”

Off-Farm Workers Supporting ALL Farm Activities

“Where is it written…that in order to be a good farm woman you need to support all farm activities”

I am seeing some conflicts in the farm family dynamic where the female manager of the household is not willing or wanting to be part of the farm business or its demands. There is a strong culture in agriculture that farm women are to be supportive of the farm’s activities in all seasons.

What if the young woman who is your DIL decides that she puts enough time into helping with the cash flow with her off-farm job, and she says she is “not married” to the farm. Yikes.

There is a lot of urgency to talk about role expectations. If it is a perfect night to be out in the sprayer doing crop protection, it is not reasonable to demand that the sprayer operator be home by 7 p.m. to be with the family at the lake for fun. The timeliness of farm operations has to be balanced with the family’s need for fun time, with common sense. This is the trend in agriculture that needs more discussion.

Hopefully, the new couple has had pre-marriage counseling to iron out what cultural values of their farm operation they plan to embrace. If you are the father-in-law who is frustrated about new roles in the next generation, then you would be wise to call a family meeting to discuss expectations in an open, respectful manner.

Keeping the Woman’s Name Off the Assets

“Where is it written…that farm women can’t be part of the farm business?”

unwritten farm rules - farm women in farm business

This unwritten rule rears up on the land maps when it becomes obvious that the farm woman does not have her name on farm assets. How did she let this happen? The fear of divorce is driving this practice.

It is important that you understand your legal rights as a spouse who farms. Come from curiosity to discover how your voice can be part of the decision making team on your farm if you feel that the unwritten rule is “we keep the women out of the farm business”.

What’s the unwritten expectation on your farm? Let me know in the comments below!

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

Book Elaine
for your next event

Contact Elaine to start the conversation.

+1-204-534-7466 | elaine(at)

Contact Elaine