The clouds at 30,000 feet are keeping me company as I write and reflect. My ears hear Celtic tunes of praise while I contemplate the lessons of the last 4 decades. November 10, 1978, marked the first day of my move to Boissevain to serve farm families with Manitoba Agriculture as an extension home economist. Those years hardwired me for gleaning problem-solving resources that would give farm folks practical tools to make better choices for a happier quality of life.
This fall I see Facebook posts of weary faces, dryer fires, and bearded young farmers who have barely had time to sleep, pressing hard to get the 2018 crop off the field, in whatever shape they can “steal the crop.”
So, when you look at the markers in your life, what really matters most?
What Really Matters Most
It matters to me that I am rich in relationships. Just this morning I met a young ambitious Texan who has just landed a sweet dairy genetics job and is happy to be able to spend time with his young family. He was clear about leaving a herdsman position where he once was part of an 18,000 cow operation. That’s not a typo, that’s a whack load of cows. He chose family time over farm stress. He said “Travel safe Ma’am” when we parted.
Yesterday I met researchers who are excited about the trends of innovation and growth for agriculture. They are keen to follow the innovators and independent entrepreneurial farmers who will carve out opportunity and business wealth. These same creative types will be sure to craft a life beyond the farm gate. I can see our next generation doing that with time for fun: hunting, fishing, travel, and marketing clubs in the next town. Make time for fun this month.
[Tweet “What #important things will make your #holiday season better. Consider what really matters to you.”]
As a new grandma, it matters that I have fun play spaces in my home that are safe for my granddaughter to laugh and play hide and seek with me. It’s getting harder to fly away to groups and have plane delays that keep you away from the family supper table. My heart aches for the farm families who have chosen to be stubborn in their unhealthy communication patterns and refuse to let grandchildren develop deep bonds with the farming grandparents. What type of parenting are you modeling for your children? Are you ignoring the wisdom gifts from the elder generation and the time older folks love to lavish on the young?
Christmas gatherings this month will be a time to connect to your family tree and celebrate the branches that are strong and still growing. If you are part of a branch that has been broken off, perhaps it is time to create new rituals and parties with friends who you can adopt into your family. We’ve experienced great delight in sharing time with families who are longing for connection. The local Boissevain Resettlement Committee has shown our community the joy of embracing refugee families who are thrilled to live in our amazing country. It matters that we take care of our global brothers and sisters who are in great need. Beds, clothes, food…we are rich.
It matters to me that the sacrifices made driving through blizzards to speak to groups and light a sense of hope in farm families is a message that will last, even if “Building Your Farm Legacy” is the last book I write. Compassion fatigue can set in at this time of year when a tough harvest ends, and the family feuding over the future of the farm continues. Rest.
Stop Being Prideful and Stubborn
A 44-year-old farmer who holds another off-farm job was desperate to find answers on how to get his dad to let go of power and control. That issue has been brought to my attention for decades. You cannot rule from the grave. Your hearse will not be pulling a U Haul trailer to take stuff with you when you die. True wealth is in good health and rich relationships. The laughter of your grand-child on the video on your smartphone is a gentle reprieve. The best choice is to be building structure and agreements into the next business plan for the farm’s health and the financial well-being of all the families your farm supports. Don’t leave your future to fate.
Two emails today spoke of untimely deaths of fathers, who died with no will and no plan. It’s just the beginning of “Transition angst” season and there will be more stories that need a healing outcome.
Christmas for me is the celebration of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the light of the World and Saviour to all those who believe. All I need for Christmas is time to worship with other Jesus followers and family who are happy to be together. What matters most in the last 40 years, is that I know God has always been faithful to provide wisdom and direction for tough conversations and hard decisions. He has blessed us with healing for our bodies, protection from more than one fire, and grace to grieve accidental deaths. He gives us life!
When you figure out what matters most to you and what you really want in your life, your intentional choices will be fuel for your light to burn bright. “Someday” will no longer be a day on your calendar. You’ll be ready to get out your black gel pen to mark the dates for family fun and farm meetings. You’ll block off time to re-charge in the sun belt or play cards with friends. When the next decade goes by like the faster rolling end of toilet paper reaching the end of the roll you won’t be the one saying, “Where did the time go ?” You’ll be respected, full of the joy knowing you embraced each new day as a gift and lived your life to it’s fullest.
Light some candles as a family this month and share with each other what really matters most. Poor crops, less cash, fewer expensive gifts under the tree: that ’s an opportunity to live simply this winter, so others may simply live.
Reach out to get the emotional support you need as you reflect on what matters most.
Hey Farmers, Don’t Miss This!
Did you hear the great news? I recently was award the Wilson Loree Award for having “made an extraordinary contribution to advancing agricultural business management practices in Canada.” You can hear all about it here in this interview with Dale Leftwich of the Real Ag Podcast.
Also, make sure you save the date for the Ranching for Profit Conference next year! Registration starts in February, but it is never to early to make sure your calendar is clear! Make sure you don’t miss any of the events I am speaking at. Keeping an eye on my “Where’s Elaine” or bookmark my speaking calendar now!
Great read as always Elaine… your posts are always so inspirational.
Wonderful words of wisdom Elaine. I am sure this year’s harvest reduced the life expectancy of every family member by 5 years and at one point I felt the whole family farm unit had been blown to bits. It room almost 2 months but conversations are slowly starting to happen. Rather Ironic that last night in a conversation with my 36 year old son I told him that I e combines e should have been shutdown as we had insufficient manpower to truck the grain off the field and process it at the dryer. He told me I was crazy because we would not have gotten the crop off. My response was “there is not enough money on the face of this planet to compensate for health and we would have been dead in the water if you had a heart attack due to stress” Then the crop really would not have come off.” Fortunately he didn’t sustain a life threatening event, he has somewhat recovered from total exhaustion and even though it will never be the same dynamics I believe a different version of the family farm will evolve moving forward. After 4 decades what really matters is we are still alive, have so much to be thankful for and the fourth generation will lead as we head towards the centenary of the farm family in 2026.
Thanks Audrey for sharing your story. Many families burned the candle at both ends for way too many hours this harvest. I am glad we can all learn from the trials we go through . May your new year be healthy and happy. Elaine
Congratulations on the Wilson Loree award!! Please continue to Keep caring about farm families you so Generously show in your workshops and articles Elaine. It does so much for my heart to see farm people, families and communities benefit from leaders that I have so much respect for like yourself, Merle, Kelly, David, etc. You all are so gifted at sharing so innovatively the caring wisdom to farm peers.
Have a wonderful and Happy Christmas and New Year with your loved ones. Sincerely, Grant Lastiwka and family
Thanks for your kind words Grant. There is much work to do. You can see the acceptance speech of the Wilson Loree Award on my website.
Merry Christmas to you and yours !
“My heart aches for the farm families who have chosen to be stubborn in their unhealthy communication patterns and refuse to let grandchildren develop deep bonds with the farming grandparents. What type of parenting are you modeling for your children? Are you ignoring the wisdom gifts from the elder generation and the time older folks love to lavish on the young?”
They are modeling that poor relationships are not acceptable and will not improve unless BOTH sides wish to. What are grandparents modeling by not being willing to come to the table for the sake of their grandchildren? If their own children are not important enough to care about why would those sons or daughters risk their beloved children on scheming elders? What wisdom? How to lie, how to play favorites, how to speak of love but act in hate? Why would you want any of this passed down? I realize you are speaking as a grandparent, but try speaking as a person instead. Grandparents aren’t special just because they are old, nor does age make right.
Any older person complaining about not getting “time older folks love to lavish on the young” while not volunteering in one of the MANY programs for youth is blowing smoke. Similarly, any grandparent believing they are OWED grandchildren does not DESERVE grandchildren.
“Reach out to get the emotional support you need as you reflect on what matters most.” Which doesn’t always mean the support you WANT (gossip, pat on the back for poor choices, etc). It is a distinction with an important difference for sure!
great blog Elaine
Congrats Elaine, and thank you for all your “valuable” information.!! Merry Christmas to you and yours!! All the best in 2019!
Thanks Linda for your encouragement. We are very thankful for a good year, and excited that our family is growing,too !