We won’t have carrots on our farm this summer because I procrastinated in weeding out the red root pigweed and a “helpful” friend hoed the row before I knew it. “Weeds are any plant that are not in the right place,” according to the certified seed grower that I live with.
Procrastination is not only a killer in the garden, it is also crushing the dreams of hundreds of young farmers that I meet. It happened again this morning. The email says: “Elaine we reached out to you last year, and now we wish we would have acted sooner…” Then the parents confess that they have been putting things off, and the tension on the farm has reached a boiling point.
So this summer when you are fishing, skiing, roasting marshmallows around a cozy fire, plant some seeds of ideas that you can bounce off the other generations of your farm team. Have some fun celebrating the rituals of summer, and use the downtime to explore the needs and desires of the rest of your family. When you can have some rest your brain will allow some new ideas to percolate and take root.
“Elaine, we have no time to roast marshmallows!” Seriously? Then you have other issues, like workaholism or labor shortages on your farm. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” shouts the field sign near Crystal City Manitoba. At the end of your time on earth, you cannot take your tractor with you! How about the richness of relationships, and the legacy of love you create now while you also manage a “rock ‘n roll” great farm business?
8 Succession Seeds to Sow:
Talk about where you want to live and why. Our plan has now changed, we bought a lake home to use as a family retreat. We are staying in our farm home for likely the next 20 years. Our successors are likely building a home close by in 3 years. Yes, this breaks my “1/2 mile rule” to live farther away, but like you, my plans can change. Be flexible.
How many families can your farm support at a decent level of income (not slave wages)? As you sit around the fire, start being transparent with the farm financial information with the next generation.
Dreams become reality when they are goals with a timeline. Share your dreams and vision with your loved ones. I had always dreamed of having a waterfront property that we could share with family and friends, and a place to encourage women. When the dream became a reality I could hardly sleep because I was so excited to see all the possibility in the new space. Your vision should be workable as a couple. Don’t reject thinking about the future for fear of getting older, we are all aging!
4. Share Your “Why”
What is your intent for your life, your farm, your family? It is my intent to keep working as a farm family coach for the next ten years and speak to groups in my 70’s. We’ll see how that all unfolds now that I am a grandma! When you say “It is my intent to explore new ways for us to farm,” then people can grasp where you are going. Recently the light bulb of insight lit up for a farming dad who realized that he was thinking of ways to protect his family in his head, but he forgot to use words to explain his intent. The family read his behavior as “controlling” when in reality the dad was just trying to be helpful. Sharing intent is a huge part of being constructive in conflict resolution. Stop trying to read minds, share your intent instead!
5. Share Stories
As a coach, it helps my families to understand that they are not the only ones going through angst and tension about transitions on the farm. It helps us all to know that others have gone through tough decisions and come out stronger on the other side. Tell stories on the fishing boat. Let your family know what life was like for you at their age. Honor the legacy passed down to you by your ancestors. Story-telling is a powerful way to get to know the emotional factors affecting your planning. Make sure you tell “healing stories” not only sad ones.
6. Reach Out as a Good Listener
Reaching out to another is a good way to constructively resolve problems. Listen actively and respond carefully to concerns. You want to move the conversations forward, so be curious. Say “I am just curious…” and then ask for what you really want to find out. You can also start it up softly with “I have been thinking…” statements.
7. Ask More Powerful Questions
Author Marilee Adams who wrote, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, says we should question everything. This might get annoying, so ask “What do you want..?” or “What if?” types of questions. I like to track my ideas in a notebook. On nights when sleep eludes you, do a brain dump on paper and see if the questions have answers in the morning.
8. Explore Your Money Scripts
It has been a delight to have folks say “I am so happy for you,” when I share news of the lake house. Some folks, of course, will be jealous, silently wishing they could have the same resources to buy a cabin, boat, etc. What does money mean to you? I have been to 4 funerals in the last 6 weeks, which is a great reminder that wealth is not in “stuff” but in your health and your relationships.
I suspect some farm families with older “traditionalists” folks born before 1945 are suffering from money scripts that don’t work well together. The 70-year-old dad who refuses to sell outdated equipment is frustrating the 45-year-old successor and 20-year-old grandchild who have new plans for assets to shift. Are you able to “let go”?