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Hope you are enjoying the longer days and warm sunshine on your farm. I also hope that panic is not rising as you anticipate getting ready for spring…whatever that means! I know a farmer that has April 20 as his magic target day for having all the equipment ready to go for seeding.

As I have coached farm families this winter they have appreciated the template of a family participation plan, or what I call the family roles guide.

Here’s a list of questions that are like the hub of decision-making for your transition journey. If one of the spokes is not strong, your wheels of success might be stuck, so let’s see what you need to get clarity on.

Many advisors talk of the family circle, the management circle, and the ownership circle, do you know which circles you are in?

  • Farm team members: What is your vision for a great day on the farm? What are your key roles and responsibilities? What is it that you are doing that you lose all track of time (it’s called being inflow)? What do you hate doing?
  • Non-farm family: What kinds of connections and activities do you want on the farm? Some of my current clients are identifying as “lifestyle” farmers. They want to vacate their city jobs during seeding and harvest and be a true asset of help in those seasons. They also want their children to learn the work ethic and have a future opportunity to do work on the farm.

Who gets to be an owner of the farm assets and when? This is a great discussion starter, as typically founders like to own land as long as possible, and their idea of ownership sharing may be in the form of shares, not equipment or land per se. Is your family open to the idea of having your professional sibling ( eg a doctor, dentist, engineer ) being a silent partner in the farm corporation or land co.?

How much of the assets are going to be gifted to the next generation, and how much will be serviced with debt? How do the new owners pay for their interest? This is a very long and tough discussion with land purchases being out of reach for many new farm generations coming back to the farm.

What happens if someone comes back and doesn’t fit, or doesn’t like the reality of farming? I have a son-in-law who is going to “try out” working with his wife’s siblings, but he also wants it to be a probation period with no hard feelings if he decides it is not workable. This is the “how do they exist?” question. When you are putting people together in a company like a farm, it is also a good idea to talk about leaving. Unanimous shareholder agreements and partnership agreements can address these issues.

Does the family bloodline guarantee you a farm job? No. Folks who farm these days should have the right skills for the right jobs. Your DNA is not your door opener. What are the criteria to work in the business? Dick Wittman’s management binder has a great list of job descriptions to help decipher what skills are needed for many roles on your farm. Email me if you would like the job description list.

Here are the categories for roles you need to get clear on:

  • General management responsibilities
  • Negotiating and administration relationships
  • Secretarial, legal support functions
  • Capital purchases analysis and procurement
  • Crop production management
  • Grain storage and marketing
  • Service-manager/machinery maintenance
  • Book-keeping and financial management
  • Risk management/insurance programs
  • Livestock operations
  • Conservations practices, drainage systems management
  • Director of FUN…just was seeing if you were really reading!

Farms today are more complex, and I suspect the founders are wanting to “Slow down”. What does “Slow down” mean?

Who gets the final say on who does what? Collaborative decision-making between the founders and the successors is the goal.

How much do you get paid? Do you get the same as your brother even though you showed up 5 years before he did? Compensation strategies should be tied to the value of the position and skill set. I know one farm that uses the pay scale similar to teaching pay grades and it has worked well as a model for them. Do the spouses also get compensated? Or are they expected to be a support to the farm on an as-needed basis? This is a huge bone of contention when the spouses are very skilled and would be drawing a wage if they were not tied in to the family business but working off-farm.

Family expectations around compensation also get messy when one worker is single and the other is married with kids. Get all the financial expectations out on the table. Look at merit-based compensation and have a pay scale. Write agreements. Do performance appraisals on family members. I have some great simple appraisal forms to share with you, ask me for Soldan’s appraisal and 9.2.

Have a hiring process for family members. Is there a probation period? Less than 8% of farms have an HR policy. I would inquire at KAP in Manitoba and also seek out the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council for their Agri HR toolkit.

What’s the learning plan to train new workers and have continued personal development? The whole learning plan for successors to be mentored is a huge gap for many next-generation farmers. They say, “Elaine, I feel like a glorified laborer on this farm. Dad keeps telling me he’ll show me the books, but it never happens. He says we have too much work to do, and no time to talk.” Yup. The month’s whiz by and before you know it, you’re another year closer to 40, but not much wiser on the management skills needed to run a multi-million dollar farm.

Your guidebook should also have a section on confidentiality, and codes of conduct.

As a conflict resolution specialist and farm family coach I highly recommend doing the online conflict dynamic profile for $55 a person. This tool can help you see your positive behaviors and tweak your hot buttons. Not everyone is going to always agree on your journey of figuring out who gets to do what on your farm. It’s great to have tools to attack the issue, not the person in front of you.


Elaine Froese, CAFA, CSP, CHICoach is a trailblazer for agriculture. Book her to speak to your association group virtually this year!

Did you enjoy Who gets to do what on this farm? A family roles guide? You might want to check these articles out too:

Evolving Farm Family Roles
How to Celebrate Our Farming Fathers and Their Important Role on the Farm
Succession Planning: One of the Biggest Hurdles for Ranchers

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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