Dump Your Grain Not Your Pain - creating a healthy legacyThe email subject line read “UNBELIEVABLE” in all caps, and I knew it wasn’t going to be a happy farm transition story. Fourteen bullet points ensued with anger, poor decision making, people not taking responsibility for their inaction. After ingesting a dump load of angst, my reply simply was, “And what do you want me to do with your story?”

Memorize that last line. “And what do you want me to do with your story ?” It will be the start of what conflict resolution experts call “flattening the triangle.” Many farm moms get caught in a triangle of communication through them. The farm dad comes in and dumps his frustration of how the farming child is not performing up to the dad’s (unspoken) expectations. The successor sneaks in later to vent their anger towards a parent who makes assumptions and is not open to letting go or embracing new ways of doing things. Stop listening to the venting and start creating a direct communication line between the two players who are dumping on you.

Dump Your Grain, Not Your Pain

“But it feels so good to vent Elaine,” writes a dairy farmer on Facebook to say hello and relay that his farming father-in-law still refuses to let go of control. That feel-good feeling is fleeting.

Venting to your spouse in marriage may let off steam, but it still is not creating solutions. Set a five-minute time limit on the venting part, then move to develop solutions together. Some folks want to solve the problem on their own. They use the venting strategy to process what is happening and get some insight from the other person’s perspective. Be clear if you are just verbally processing or are you looking for solutions. The ability to take on another person’s perspective is a healthy conflict resolution skill. Can you put yourself in your spouse’s shoes? Are they having a hard time with unspoken fears of failure or loss of wealth that they cannot yet express?

Conflict Resolution

Winter brings time around the table to plan, strategize, and take a good look at where you have been and where you want to go. February’s emphasis on love may have stirred up your loneliness or sense of woundedness in your family dynamic. What actions are you planning to take to heal? As the Chinese proverb says, “Talk does not cook rice.” You need to act.

Request a $40 conflict dynamic profile (CDP), on my website, that you can do online to figure out your strengths in constructive conflict and the destructive habits that you want to decrease. It also will illuminate your hot buttons. My hot buttons are people who are aloof, i.e., don’t share what they are thinking or feeling or wanting, and also those folks who are unreliable. This helps me understand what to do when I am feeling triggered.

Assessing your conflict profile gives you accurate data to make improvements.

Choosing a Healthy Legacy…Or Not

I have two farm advisor friends at Ag Progress, Davon Cook and Lance Woodbury. They have some sobering thoughts here about choosing what you want your legacy to be on your farm. If you keep dumping anger, there’s a big chance that your legacy will not be healthy. Sign up for their newsletter: the Ag Progress Dispatch for great writing on family business principles.

Davon Cook asks:

  • How will I be remembered? What characteristics or accomplishments will be noted?
  • What, or who, will I leave behind? This includes hard assets and soft assets like relationships and impact on others and my community.
  • What are my hopes and expectations for the future? I hope to embed some values and goals that influence my children, business associates, and others through time. Yet my opinions are not guaranteed to carry weight indefinitely.
  • My challenge is to influence by persuasion and example, without an expectation of dictating from the grave.

Lance Woodbury outlines the negative legacy consequences of poor choices:

  • A legacy of not dealing with difficult family issues and leaving them to rot far into the future among the children. In short, the passing of conflict (in addition to assets) from one generation to the next.
  • A legacy of dealing with conflict in a way that further breaks the family apart. I frequently see family members “withhold” time with the grandkids, boycott significant life milestones (weddings and other celebrations), or create intentional hostility in public and private gatherings. Anger can have generational consequences.
  • A legacy of non-existent, or primarily negative, feedback and interaction that leaves your children feeling like they have never pleased you, have never met your standards, or even that that they were a disappointment to you.
  • A legacy of physical, emotional, or even substance abuse that gets repeated for future generations.

A Legacy of “Equality” that Sets up Conflict Among Siblings

An example would be leaving future generations with undivided ownership interests in land or with shared ownership in operating companies when not everyone is involved in the business without a process to resolve differences that will likely arise.

A Legacy that Doesn’t Reflect the Unique Contributions of Family Members.

In modern times that might be a legacy that favours leadership by sons when perhaps the daughters are more qualified. It could also be a legacy that supports older siblings when younger family members have made a more significant contribution.

As you consider your legacy, think about how some of the less desirable aspects of your style, your approach to problems, some of your blind spots, or your less-than-positive interaction with others might get transferred to the next generation (Ag Progress Dispatch January 2019: Reimagining Legacy).

Work on direct communication with your farm team and create solutions together. Dump your grain, but don’t dump your pain on each other. Work it out with healthy conflict resolution choices. As Woodbury cautions, anger can have generational consequences, and I am sure that is not what you want!

I look forward to reading your emails that say, “Unbelievably helpful conversations.”

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

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