“Every front door looks beautiful” is one of my favourite Irish sayings. It came to mind in Deadwood South Dakota, in the Black Hills where I was listening to the woes of a young ranch couple. They have a strong desire to ranch as “debt-free” as possible, but her parents, the owners are struck on new pick-up trucks and “keeping up an image” with lots of debt.

Sound familiar?

My friend Wayne Buhr in Brandon is an insolvency manager for Debt-Free North.  Buhr’s approach is to invite folks into the office or zoom in with them to discover why folks are not dealing head-on with their financial disasters. He told me the story of a distraught parent bringing her son in for a serious discussion to start finding financial solutions to release the stress of too much debt. He has also seen adult children bring their parents in to have a reality check on their financial habits that are keeping them stuck.

Recently I coached a very complex dairy business with heaps of cows (more than 2000) who struggle with a sibling who is expecting to be bailed out continuously by the parents. The successors of the dairy are worried about cash flow issues when the estate is distributed.

Solutions to financial stress start with courageous conversations.

The young ranchers brought their parents to my workshop and the parents heard the message regarding securing income streams, hiring a fee-for-service financial planner, and ways to approach talking about debt servicing.

How much debt can you sleep with at night?

Do you understand the difference between good debt and debt that is bad for you?

Do you really need a fully-loaded pickup truck, brand new? Good luck getting one these days if the chip for the truck is not available. I once rode with a single young farmer who said he “deserved” his $84,000 truck, and I observed that he likely was not making money with this new truck, especially since his dad had passed and his mom was struggling with farm cash flow.

Another aging rancher, over 75 proudly told me that he was not going to transition shares of the ranch to the next generation who were eagerly awaiting more security in their future. This stubborn horse rider had over $2M in long-term debt. I questioned him as to why he was not letting go, and he said he would transition equity when the debt was zero. Oh boy.

Another farm family has reached out because Dad is not accepting that he must settle a divorce with Mom before he can navigate a transition plan. The debt of the parents needs to be settled before the next generation can start charting their debt servicing and equity purchases as they learn how to manage and start to gain ownership of equipment, shares, land, or other farm assets.

For 10 years I served as a mediator with the Farm Debt Mediation Service. I think the service has been quieter in the last few years before COVID, but I suspect with the drought, lost income, and the cash flow crunch on many farms, there may be a need for Farm Debt Mediation. The good news about this program is you get a farm financial planner who helps you create a recovery plan to present at a formal session to your creditors. Again, open, honest communication is the key here to success in finding a solution that all parties can agree to.

The number to call is 1-866-452-5556, or just google Farm Debt Mediation Service.

Reach out to find a fee-for-service financial planner in your area, or consent to work with one over zoom. I’ve written before about Sara McCullough who resides in Kitchener, Ontario specializing as a divorce financial analyst, she also works with folks who plan to stay married.

You may have seen the Producer article in late December 2021 on the great work that Ray Riel does in Regina, you can find him at  Carberry’s Forbes Wealth Management and Winnipeg’s Colin Sabourin of Harbourfront Wealth Management are very well versed in what farmers need to succeed.

Many farms this spring are suffering a cash flow crunch. The debt servicing conversation is important, so stop procrastinating and reach out to your lenders to create solutions.

If your money script and attitudes toward debt are very different from your parent’s, then you need to question if you really want to be business partners with folks whose values are not aligned with yours.

You can also find podcasts to challenge your thinking about money. Bruce Sellery, a friend of mine now has a podcast called “Moolala Money Made Simple”.

For those of you struggling with family members who just cannot seem to get a good grip on sound financial habits, check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. His methods are unconventional, yet he has had lots of success in transforming people’s pain with debt.

Talk does not cook rice. But it is a start. Behaviours must shift. “Farm families need to embrace financial transparency for the farm books, and their personal balance sheets if they want to be business partners,” says Dick Wittman. I highly recommend his digital farm management binder and templates to get you great tools for farm management.

People often ask me why I am passionate about the work I am called to do as a farm family coach. I have seen strong families make collaborative decisions and enjoy family harmony. I have also experienced deep loss when folks just won’t engage with professional advisors who could have helped create a much more positive succession scenario.

My front door is boring white. After my trip in 2011 to Dublin, Ireland I considered painting it red. “Every front door is beautiful.” When I visit your farm, I hope I find all the generations happily managing the debt. I give you permission to ask for what you truly want to navigate the debt on your farm.


Elaine Froese CSP, CAFA, CHICoach has a team of coaches ready to serve your family to find harmony through understanding. Go here.

Did you enjoy Help! My parents have loads of debt we don’t want! You might want to check these articles out too:

Stop breaking Momma’s heart…deal with your entitlement issues
How to talk to your Boomer Dad and Mom
Decreasing your money woes by tracking personal expenses

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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