Farm transition has never been an easy process or conversation for many families. Farm operations continue to grow, often times dealing with millions of dollars in assets. We know that these conversations never seem to go as planned. But how much planning really goes into those conversations ahead of time? Elaine Froese has been helping farm families navigate these difficult conversations through better communication and conflict resolution.
Think about this. What steps would you take today if a loved one passed away? This is a hectic, with much to think about and plan for. The necessary conversations ahead of time are not fun. But without them, people can be left in the dark when that day comes around.
Elaine – “So conversations are helpful if they help you to focus and then actually execute… you can see those successful farms [that] attack the issue, not the person. there’s all these questions percolating in people’s brains that they just need to get [them] out on the table so that you can start unpacking what the solution would be.’
Below is a few more highlights from the full interview with Elaine. You can listen to the entire podcast episode on your favourite player or app including Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon and Stitcher.
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Opening Up the Discussion
There is often a struggle that happens between generations. Whether it surrounds money, assets or the future of the farm it’s often hard to let go of what has been built. Farmers have immense pride in their farm and the work they do. That passion has been shared with the next generation often plays a huge role in a younger farmer wanting to take over.
There are lots of steps that people can take when they are having push back from the other side of the table. During conflict resolution, you have to try and put yourself in the other person’s perspective. Why does Dad not want to give up control? Does mom want to live on the farm forever?
Some other questions to ask:
- What was it like when you got the farm from your parents?
- How would you like your role to remain the same?
- Will this impact my/your marriage? Other relationships?
- How do you envision your retirement?
Conflict avoidance is one of the major problems in agriculture, says Elaine. Hard conversations are inherently not enjoyable to have. As humans we don’t like tension or stress in our lives and will actively work to avoid them.
Elaine – “Let’s do it after planting the soybeans and corn. No, let’s do it after spring. No, let’s do it after the Ontario Farm show. No, let’s do it after harvest. No, let’s do it after Christmas. No, let’s wait till we get back from holidays. No, let’s do it after seeding. And I’ve just [gone] through a whole farming year and they haven’t [made any progress].”
In the end Elaine says it’s all about both sides being open to having an equally sided conversation. An understanding of both sides perspective is essentially to coming to a conclusion in the best interest of the future of the family farm.
To learn more about Elaine and her work with farm families who want better communication and resolutions to a successful farm transition visit her website here.
- Finding Fairness in Farm Transition – YouTube Video