Where to begin?
Within the allotted timeframe of one hour, Elaine Froese, a Farm Family Business Coach, delivered a wealth of practical insights about finding fairness in farm transition to a banquet room filled with farm families and advisors. I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t hear Elaine speak. It’s a struggle to condense her presentation, jam-packed with useful information, into a brief commentary…but it’s also reassuring to know anyone can access her valuable resources from her website.
Right off the start, Elaine tied the importance of communication to action. Ironically, she referenced one cuisine served for the banquet meal and instructed her audience that the first step in making cabbage rolls (holubtsi) is to cook the rice. You can talk all you want…but “Talk doesn’t cook rice.” This is especially true in a farm transition plan. When members of the farm family openly share what F.A.I.R. looks like to them, then they are likely to find fairness in the farm transition. Elaine explained in detail about the importance of Financial transparency, Attitudes, Intent, and Roles (the acronym for F.A.I.R.). For all of us, her online resource, Finding Fairness in Farm Transition, is extremely helpful.
During her presentation, Elaine shared several catchy coaching phrases. (It’s comical and coincidental that Elaine’s last name, “Froese”, is pronounced as “Phrase”). She has written a captivating blog called, The Froese (Phrase) That Pays. One memorable message, which isn’t penciled on her list, but was part of her talk, is “Someday is not a day on my calendar.” Honestly, this message stresses the dangers of procrastination. When we wait for that elusive “someday” to occur, an unexpected event may transpire before that day, wiping away and shattering any hopes of an anticipated dream or goal for our families and ourselves. Her advice is to change our approach about stating “I should”. Here’s her example.
“Counselors use a term “don’t should on yourself”. Rather than saying, “I should talk to my son and his wife about their vision for this farm”, say “I am going to start having conversations about what is working for our family farm team, and what needs to change.”
At the Steaks and Stems Producer Appreciation Night in the city of Yorkton, Elaine posed this question, “What are your deepest fears?” The audience could secretly respond with a text message to her cell phone. Fears are real; and the natural inclination would have been to share them. But at this event, her cell phone remained silent. This was unlike a previous event when Elaine spoke to Alberta farmers who did not hold back. Sometimes, we suppress our fears and prefer to put them on “ignore” rather than face them. We know that’s not the ideal solution. So what is?
The first step is to simply begin with the right tools. I often share my favorite quote: “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand and work with whatever tools you have at your command, and better tools will be found along the way.” It so happens Elaine’s website offers a free Farm Family Toolkit filled with useful tools (documents) to help families communicate better and grow stronger on their farms. A great ending to one’s farm family story is a successful transition to the next generation. Let’s begin.