Blogs

9 Steps To Getting More Family Harmony on the Farm

When there’s tension in a farm family, it can mean a much bigger impact than just hurt feelings. With that in mind, today we’re going to discuss some of my favorite tips for creating family harmony on the farm.

The coaching theme lately has been older brothers and young brothers (a good bit younger) trying to figure out how to farm together. It is a bit of a trick since the older brother typically has a bit more equity because he has been on the farm for a decade or more.

If you’d like to read more about conflict between farm family siblings, be sure to visit this post once you’re done reading about creating family harmony.

Farm Family Dilemmas

The dilemma of how to give each sibling what they need as a successor sometimes breaks a mother’s heart. She loves all of her children, as does Dad. She’s trying to figure out the way ahead so the family will be in harmony, and the farm will have a strong team.

It could be adult children who show up as loving adults, responsible, respectful and ready to create solutions. It’s the farming successors who show family relationships are the core value to be protected. They also show the farm is a business, not a monster to be fed.

So, what can be done for creating family harmony?

9 Suggestions for All Members for Creating Family Harmony on the Farm

1. COME TO THE TABLE

Be willing to discuss ideas and options. What is your big picture vision of farming with your parents and your siblings?

The accountant can give you some creative share structure options, partnerships, and operating agreements once you are clear about what each sibling needs. Share your “why” or intent for the things you are asking for.

2. INVOLVE THE DAUGHTER-IN-LAWS

Readers asked for an article on daughters-in-law who farm and conflict resolution. So I delivered.

After all, I am her. I’m a farm partner who supports the farm team.

Some daughters-in-law are more active agronomists, livestock keepers, and bookkeepers. Everyone’s role can look different, but all are important.

In my books, the farmer’s spouse can be a daughter-in-law or a son-in-law. The daughter-in-law needs to understand what kind of debt is going to be serviced. She needs to be clear that she is willing to help bring in cash or income for family living. If she’s a homemaker, that’s fine. But the farm will have to cash flow more revenue for debt-servicing. Is this viable?

3. KNOW YOUR FAMILY LIVING COSTS

You need to eat and be clothed. Parents can’t be expected to give you a free ride with free house rent or utilities forever. Once you cover your basic living costs, what do you have left for servicing debt or buying assets? You need disposable cash to grow.

[Tweet “#Farmers, 9 ways to achieve #family harmony on the #farm.”]

4. REALIZE YOU’LL ALWAYS BE THE OLDEST, MIDDLE, OR YOUNGEST CHILD

You can’t change your birth order or become older to “catch up” to your older farming sibling.

But what you CAN do is grow up, be mature, and make responsible choices with your time, resources, and energy. I know a young rancher who worked hard with neighbors to make hay arrangements for his growing cattle herd, and he also bartered his labor to get ahead. He was not using his youth as an excuse to just coast.

5. VISIT YOUR LENDER AND FIND OUT WHAT YOU ARE GOOD FOR REGARDING LOANS

Do you know your net worth? How much money could you come up with quickly to leverage some debt for an awesome opportunity to gain assets to farm? You might not be able to afford land, but can you access some rented land and pay for inputs? Your mom would like you to be independent with your living (laundry, meals, etc. ) and ready to be independent financially.

6. BE PATIENT

It took your parents 40 years to get where they are today. It’s 2020, and farming has big dollars attached to the adventure.

Be open to learning more about financial transparency. Negotiate what you are willing to commit to and for how long. If your parents are going to roll over or gift assets, they want to know that their wealth will be protected. They also want your marriage to be strong and enduring.

Set some reasonable timelines and dates on paper so that everyone can digest what a workable timeline is for everyone to get closer to their farming goals.

For more on taking control of the financial future of the farm, take a look at this article.

7. REMEMBER TO BOOK TIME FOR FUN

Strong families celebrate.

I wish you could see the tears in Mom’s eyes (and Dad’s) at the end of a family meeting when she tells her adult farming children that she’s proud of them and loves them dearly.

Appreciation and encouraging the heart of your farm business is done with words of affirmation, gifts, and time spent together with gratitude. Don’t kid yourself that all the stuff you collect in your house is important.

Life is not about things. Write your folks some nice words in a card this year.

8. DECIDE EVERY DAY HOW YOU ARE GOING TO INTENTIONALLY ADD TO YOUR FARM FAMILY’S EMOTIONAL BANK ACCOUNT

When siblings farm together, especially at different stages of the family life cycle, they need to recognize they’ll always be in different phases of that cycle.

Parents are not responsible for making all of their children economically equal. Yet their heartstrings are pulled to want to help each child achieve success. Farm owners may want to help the younger siblings, just as they have helped the older farm and non-farm siblings in their own way.

This is not an easy dance.

The founders need to take care of their own income streams for the next 30 years and protect their wealth as they make the transition of ownership gradually. It also helps if there is a “personal wealth bubble,” as Merle Good says, to help draw non-farm cash for living needs as we age.

Farm transitions can be difficult, but there are ways to keep them fair, and I discuss them here.

9. YOUR MOM WILL ALWAYS BE YOUR MOM

Someday mom and dad may also be your business partner. This is where role confusion really mucks people up. They cannot switch “hats” as they relate to each other in the different roles they play. Practice saying, “As your child, I feel valued and respected as a member of this family, and as your future business partner I am looking forward to creating solutions to make a great future for my own family.”

Need help creating family harmony on the farm?

It’s one thing to read these words and another thing entirely to put them into action. But I am here to help with that! My services include farm family coaching for families looking for the help needed to move towards better communication in the farm transition process.

If it’s the farm succession planning that’s causing tension, I can help with that too. Farm family business coaching is a forum for talking about the tough issues, the bull in the middle of the living room no one’s talking about. I can help you keep family business meetings a safe place to respectfully work out an action plan to create harmony within your farm family once again.

I look forward to hearing from you.

If you enjoyed this article and you’d like to dive deeper, don’t miss these posts:

The Importance of Relaxation: Why It’s Good for You & The Farm
How to Communicate To the Different Generations on the Farm
12 Tips to Boost Farm Communication During a Crisis

This article was originally published in September 2016, and has been updated in 2020. 

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)elainefroese.com

Contact Elaine