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As the calendar winds down 2021, and the snow comes, it strikes us that another season is approaching. Farming gives us many clear signs that things don’t stay the same.

This summer I met Nell Smith, age 80, the author of Retire to the Life You Love, practical tools for designing your meaningful future. It’s a Canadian book and very valuable. Don’t write off this article because you read “retire”, let’s focus on designing a meaningful future.

What do you really want in your next chapter of life? Many farmers tell me they never plan to retire, their plan is to work less, but they don’t have a clear job description past 66 as their roles on the farm shift.

Many farmers confess to me that they have not paid much attention to friendships, and during this long GREAT PAUSE, it’s been tough to have a robust social life.

My curiosity is “What time do you spend thinking about being intentional to create a fun, purpose-driven life after letting go of the main management of the farm?”

I am living this. Perhaps we should call the next phase of aging THE GREAT SHIFT. It’s actually 3 phases of shift, 65 to 75, 75 to 85, and 85 to 95.

My spouse still leaves the house at 8 am to find out what is in store for the farm tasks for the day, but he comes in for supper at 5:30 pretty tired. Management on our farm is collaborative with our successor son. The 64-year-old directs customers to talk to the next generation. Shifting management to the next generation is an ongoing process and each farm situation will be unique. The key is the attitudes of all generations to treat each other with respect, share decision making and ask for input.

Smith encourages us to use her 6-circle framework to map out a great life:

  1. Be who you are
  2. Be well physically and mentally
  3. Be a contributor to your family and community with your skills, learn new skills.
  4. Just be for the emotional and spiritual well-being. (What brings you joy?)
  5. Be curious to keep on stretching to have great cognitive health.
  6. Be compassionate (What are you doing to nurture relationships?)

1. Who are you in your coveralls? Are you the president of the company who won’t let go of control? Are you the compassionate mentor who is fine with the successor taking over more of the operational decision-making? Are you treated with respect and appreciation as the wise elder? Do you hurt when your opinions are not considered or respected? Is your identity struggle tied up in the fact that you cannot call yourself a farmer anymore unless you remain active on the farm? Someone said we are human beings, not human doings. Our worth and identity are not cemented with what we do with our roles on our farm.

Values are a key component of who we are. I challenge you to get my Values cloud and figure out your top 5 values. If you want to do this more scientifically ask for the online Values indicator. Happy people as they age are those whose values are aligned. Mine are relationships, independence, intimacy, challenge, and spirituality. I am happy to create a robust coaching practice to help farm families find harmony through understanding. My personal style is to be influential. What is your personal style? I have an online tool for that also. You get energy when your personal style lines up with your life choices, so as an extroverted influencer I need lots of people connection in my week.

2. Being well physically and mentally has come to the forefront in 2021. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your health is your wealth”. Our doctor pointed his finger at us when we were 60 saying, “Look you two, it is time to have some fun, you only have 15 good years left !!” He spoke from his lived experience as a rural physician. My goal is to continue to live healthy past 90. What you are doing to sleep well, eat nourishing food, decrease sugar and alcohol intake? Are you taking good care of your brain? Do you seek out medical check-ups to catch things early? Prevention is the best medicine. Walking 40 minutes a day could be game-changing for us all.

Who is a great role model for you for aging well? What do you need to start doing to be healthier?

3 Contribute: to your family and community. We have an amazing re-settlement committee in our town that helps newcomers to Canada settle well. My husband loves spending lots of time with the grandkids, as do I. We have seen the folks who serve thrive in the act of helping others. As you shift and age, perhaps there are families in your farm radius who would love to adopt you as a grandfather! Think about the myriad of skills you have from 40 years of farming: critical thinking, numbers, money, people, repairing, strategizing. Many folks need your input! Take a sheet with a horizontal row that says I LOVE, …and fill in 5 tabs of things you love in noun form eg travel, grandkids. Then go down the sheet (left vertical column) with the heading I am good at organizing…fill in the row under each tab, planning, designing, nurturing, computer research…etc. You’ll get an amazing grid of ideas. A man in our community has taken his welding skills to create amazing art with found metals from farms. He appreciated the old auger flighting we gave him from our bush for his art!

4. Just Be. Smith outlines ways of being: be still, be silent, be in nature, be joyful, play, be creative.

What in your present life gives you that keen feeling of pleasure and aliveness?

Read Reb Zalman’s book: From Age-ing to Sage-ing.

5. Be curious. Keep learning and discovering. Keep your brain firing on all cylinders. Check out University of the Third Age.

6. Be compassionate, to yourself, family and friends and society.
“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a wholehearted life: loving ourselves,” says Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection. Brown’s podcast “Unlocking Us” encourages me often. As a life-long learner, I am soaking in new insights when I listen to the ways we need to care for ourselves. Many women in agriculture will agree with Smith “If we don’t care for ourselves first, we will be the ones needing care next.” Tracy Brunet’s Impact Farming podcast guest Darci Lang “Taking Care in Tough Times” is worth a listen. Also, read “The 5 Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman. I feel loved with words of affirmation and meaningful touch, while my spouse wants “acts of service” to feel deeply connected. Ask me for the ROLE MAP to be intentional about your 6 key roles: self, couple, family, farm, friends, community. It’s a fun worksheet to start the conversation about what you really want your life to look like.

Cherish one another in your marriage. Don’t assume that your spouse wants to spend the next 25 years with you if you have put your marriage on the “coast” while you’ve been chasing cows.

You need to order Smith’s book today in time for Christmas!

Peace and joy to your family.

***

Elaine Froese helps farm families find harmony through understanding. Visit her new website at www.elainefroese.com. Watch her speaker reel and invite her to speak to your group in 2022, virtually or live!

Visit Elaine’s store or watch her new speaker reel.

Did you enjoy Living the life you love as an aging farmer? You might want to check these articles out too:

How to talk to your Boomer Dad and Mom
A Warning to the Over 80 Farmer
Growing to be a good good father

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
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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
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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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