Working With Family Can Be A Challenge

Agriculture is largely a family business. Farming operations are often passed down from one generation to the next, and while this can be an extremely rewarding proposition, it also comes with a whole host of potential pitfalls that are best avoided. AGvisorPRO is working hard to bring growers answers now, and we know not every issue on the farm is technical or agronomic in nature. Often, the biggest struggle in a given operation is figuring out how to work closely with your family. That’s where Expert Elaine Froese can help.

The Expert That Farm Families Need

Elaine Froese is a renowned speaker, writer, and coach in the area of succession planning and communication. Her background in agriculture, and her life-long love of communication mean she has a unique and thoughtful perspective on all kinds of farm issues. She’s been called “Canada’s Farm Whisperer.” You may remember Elaine from her many columns in GrainNews over the last 25 years, where she helped farmers and their families understand how to do better for each other. From questions on the transfer of property and equity to debt management to workload coordination, Elaine is an expert in many of the “soft” aspects of agriculture that often get overlooked. She is a certified professional business coach, has a degree in home economics, has spoken to thousands of people in her career, and has helped over 1000 farm families navigate the stresses of working together.

“My daughter in law came up to me and said “mom, I want to break your half-mile rule. I want to build a house right next door to you, and I know in your book (Farming’s In-Law Factor), you don’t recommend families do that.” I said to her, “Well I wrote the book! I think we’ll work it out.”

Your Family Can’t Read Your Mind

Growers are a pragmatic bunch of people. Elaine has found great success in distilling her ideas down into an on-farm “cheat sheet” to help growers keep her coaching in mind as they navigate the complexities of their business. “Love does not read minds” is something of a mantra for her clients. When we love another person, that can lead us to assume we know what they are thinking or feeling or wanting, and basing actions on those assumptions can lead to trouble.

Another thing that can often be an issue on farms is shifting daily priorities. As growers grapple with weather, equipment, and all the other variables on a farm, plans tend to change. Clarity of expectations is another area that Elaine routinely coaches growers on. What is the most important thing to accomplish today? What is the most important thing to discuss in our meeting? When the individuals in an operation start asking each other these questions, and when they’re coached in how to respond respectfully and professionally, good things happen.

“You should train your family not to try and read minds. I always say counselling is about recovery, but coaching is about discovery.”

“We all have to take responsibility for how we show up, and what comes out of our mouth, and how we act towards each other. Everybody gets to choose their behavior, and everybody gets to choose their response.”

Graceful Succession And “Finishing Well”

Even with all of this in mind, the parent/child relationships on a farm are fraught with difficulty. Elaine says it’s very typical to hear the next generation on a farm isn’t thrilled with the way the previous generation communicates or interacts. “In families, especially between fathers and sons, the fathers don’t always use a lot of words when they need to use more words. The son gets frustrated because he’s seen this pattern for all of his life, and I’m just coaching them to remember that every morning when you wake up you’re capable of choosing a different pattern. You have a choice to listen, to be kind, not to swear. The ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is one you can learn.” Says Elaine. She recalls a recent instance where she got a call from a dairy farmer in Ontario who’d just read her article Grandpa, Do You Want To Finish Well?  The grower was thrilled to report their recent succession planning had gone well because their father had communicated well, went to the lawyers, drafted agreements, and followed all the protocols Elaine recommends. She notes that one of the reasons this dairy farmer had a successful transition is because all parties involved were clear that they didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the last generation.

Communicating in a Post-Covid World

A challenge for Elaine in a post-covid world is figuring out how to offer this intensely personal coaching to growers and their families remotely. AGvisorPRO is thrilled to offer a solution to experts like Elaine, who need to keep working in spite of not being able to be in the same room as her clients. AGvisorPRO offers Elaine a monetized face-to-face remote connection with her clients. Couple this connectivity with our app’s ability to record and archive each interaction, and AGvisorPRO becomes a powerful tool that keeps Elaine Froese working in a remote world.

Get Answers Now from Elaine Froese with AGvisorPRO

The desire to improve an operation year-over-year, generation-over-generation, is something that all growers are familiar with. While it’s typical that the first place to seek improvements is in the technical and agronomic aspects of the farm, some of the most positive generational improvements will have more to do with business planning, succession planning, and practice at good communication. AGvisorPRO knows that growers are hungry for advice and guidance in this area, and we’re thrilled to offer access to Elaine Froese’s expertise through our platform.

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