I am looking at my bare garden, waiting for the soil to warm up. The guys are busy in the fields, we’ve been seeding since April 26th. We are celebrating having our family close this weekend. I wish my farm Mom was still alive, she passed away in 1998 at age 65, but I think of her often, and miss her.
She taught me to have a voice, enjoy gardening, and be servant-hearted.
I’d like to know what you think of this blog post, as I see a trend of farm women being left out of land deals.
If you are looking for a way to better communicate with the others on your farm grab a copy of my latest book Building Your Farm Legacy, whichever platform will work best for you!
Lessons to Reflect on From Your Farm Mom
Her voice quivers and she tears up quickly when she mentions her mom’s name. “Elaine I really miss my mom, and I know it was her intention for me to have some of the lands that came down from her family.”
Many well-meaning advisors will tell you to keep emotion and business separate, but I don’t see it that way. The ability to express deep emotions and not hide them is actually a strong trait for good conflict resolution. Tears can mean deep joy, and they can also foreshadow unresolved hurt.
Farm Mom Expectations and Having a Voice
Farmers today are educating daughters to become farm partners, business owners, and tenants of land. Unfortunately, some of the cultures of agriculture has not kept up with the decision making prowess of women in agriculture.
So I am curious, what lessons are you learning from your farm Mom? Does your founding father agree with Mother?
I encourage folks to attack the issues at hand, not the person. If Dad sees the farmland as a guys only domain, my first question is “Why?” My second question would be “Where is it written that females should not own land, and can not rent said land on long-term leases to siblings?” Farmers, male and female need access to land. Women need to have an opportunity to own land and be landlords.
The older widowed women, need to remember what their mothers told them about having a voice in decision making. I see a trend of way too many elderly farm women being bullied by demanding children who can’t wait to cash out on the farmland, yet the acres of access for the farming children need to be made available for the entire family’s financial security. The fight is over cash flow, greed, and unreasonable expectations. Are we clear?
My mother’s Irish DNA likely gave her some impetus to be very strong in how she came across, but she was not always well received. We can temper the tonality of our conversations with a decision to be gracious, patient in our listening, and curious about taking the other person’s perspective.
Do you know what it might feel like to be female, well educated, skilled in business, and yet not given a chance to have a share in the farm assets? Do you remember what it felt like when you first got a chance to have equity in your own name? The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is another great conflict skill that everyone needs to embrace.
If your mother taught you to stay silent if you couldn’t say something nice, release the gremlins your mother passed on to you. Having a voice that is heard and respected is important for preventing divorce on farms. Each person needs to feel that they are listened to and understood. Biting your tongue is not helpful unless you are simply delaying your response so that all parties have a chance to cool down. You are not going to “sweep things under the carpet” and pretend that everything is fine!
Here’s an excerpt from a woman who broke through the wall of avoiding conversations by learning how to have family meetings:
I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. You asked us to let you know what we implemented and how it affects our farm/family. So here’s my update…
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.
We will hold monthly meetings. But we made a rule that it only takes 2 members in agreement to call an ’emergency’ meeting anytime between monthly meetings.
Thank you for sharing the way you do, and for helping those of us who aren’t financially able to hire a transition planner. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business.
Age and Wisdom You Need as a Farm Mom
The last time I saw my mother alive was in July 1998 when we had a family meeting with her accountant, my siblings, and my farming father. She died 6 weeks later unexpectedly of an asthma attack during harvest. She was only 65.
I will be 65 in 30 months. That time will fly by.
Today I encourage you to reflect on the healthy habits that your mom helped you develop, and the ones that are no longer serving you well. How you think, feel and behave can be a positive cycle to help you overcome challenges.
Farming this year may have a truckload of stress ahead, but each day we get to choose how we respond to our family dynamics, and what story we are telling ourselves.
Take some time this week to reach out to your Mom and show your love, respect, and appreciation in a tangible way. That could be a gift, time with her, a phone call, a card, or simply asking her what she would like from you.
We are all deeply affected by the people we surround ourselves with. If your family dynamics are strained, perhaps it is time to ask for help and seek professional counseling. Embrace your losses, your grief, your sadness and find new coping strategies.
Let’s all watch our language and assumptions about what women can and cannot do in our ever-changing culture of agriculture. Men and women can be stronger when they are working for the same vision together.
Watch “Finding Fairness in Farm Transition” for a new way of looking at fairness.
Strong families celebrate, so find a loving way to say thanks to your Mom.
Also, make sure you don’t miss my “Sparking Successful Conversations” talk on June 12, 2019, at the Persephone Theatre! For more information, click here!