A heat wave is looming. Drought on the Prairies is keeping folks awake at night. Farming folks are trying to cope with their brains on overload.
Where is it written in the farming book of rules that you always figure things out on your own and never ask for help? Where is that written in your family rule book? “Where is it written” is a phrase that pays to get clarity and challenge the status quo.
I was standing in my garden pulling quackgrass when a distraught woman called me. Her lending institution gave her my number. “Elaine, I feel very humbled. I don’t like to ask for help.”
Her story is mirrored by many others. She trusted her in-laws to fulfil the promise of owning the farm. Death happened. Foreclosure followed. Finances were not paid attention to. This woman knew in her gut the lack of written agreements for farm transfer was not a good thing. She could not convince her spouse, her in-laws, nor her lender (!) that things needed to change. Now she is in a very sad spot.
Here are three key questions to start organizing your thoughts:
- Who is your emotional support group beyond your immediate family? If your parents and siblings cannot help you, then who can you turn to? Manitoba’s www.supportline.ca (1-866-367-3276) is a good place to reach out and start to have a sounding board. I also recommend that you contact your medical clinic, public health nurse, to find out the best way to connect with a mental health worker. The Do More Ag Foundation has been hosting biweekly events which run until the end of July. Go to https://www.domore.ag/talk-it-out. The leader is Lauren Van Ewyk, a social worker and farmer who is a great help. This happens on Zoom. Thanks to FCC for sponsoring this great project. I have really enjoyed the sessions that I have booked on my calendar.
- What is the key issue keeping me anxious? Farm people are trusting folk. Sometimes that trust is not warranted, so I bang the drum of “get it all into written agreements.” I also talk a lot about managing your finances well and knowing your secure income streams. Many Canadians are taking advantage of the income supplements from the federal government, which requires that your tax filing is up to date. If you have been ignoring the obvious things that you should be paying attention to, then reach out to your local bank or credit union for a financial reboot with their financial planners. Don’t be afraid to talk about how hard it is to pay bills or pay debts. The Farm Debt Mediation Service was created for farmers to communicate in a safe, respectful fashion with creditors. If creditors are calling, then find ways to have better communication with them and don’t ignore your financial stress. The Western Canada toll-free number is 1-866-452-5556. I was an FDMS mediator for 10 years. The most awful meetings were the ones where a spouse was shocked to find out the true financial reality of the farm. No secrets. No surprises. Money needs to be managed. You can also reach out to www.cafanet.ca and find an adviser near you who cares about agriculture’s success.
- Why am I not taking action? Hope deferred makes the heart sick. You likely are sick about your current circumstances. Doing nothing is not going to bring different results. Procrastination is killing agriculture. Talk to the widow who has buried a spouse who did not get around to getting a will done or a power of attorney. Fear can be paralyzing, but you have just read above that there are people and resources willing to help you get unstuck. Depressed people don’t make rational decisions, so maybe a visit or a tele-health call with your family doctor is a good starting point. Ask them to test you for depression with a list of questions they are trained to use. Stop accepting angry behaviour, which is really a reflection of fear, hurt and frustration. You get the behaviour you accept. One farm woman opted for a “redemption separation” where she left the farm home for three years, waiting for her spouse to get healing from addiction and then she returned to build a stronger marriage. Her intent in leaving “for a while” was clear. She did not intend to see the dissolution of her marriage, she intended for everyone to be healthy. Divorce did not become the outcome.
1. Identify the problem.
2. Research and reach out to find options to solve the problem.
3. Pick the best option.
5. Evaluate how it worked. Make adjustments.
All of us during this Great Pause need to practise good self-care to be mentally resilient to the many degrees of uncertainty we are navigating. What gives you energy? Who can you call to connect with in an emotionally healthy way? Would your local church have a benevolent fund that you could access?
You have six key roles to manage in order to be a self-renewing person: your self, your partner/spouse, your family, your farm, your friends, and your community. Sketch out six boxes and label them with all those roles. Plunk your three best ideas for keeping strong in each of the roles you navigate this summer. I’m planning to do more kayaking and have more campfires with chocolate. I make good use of my smartphone as a phone, not a texting instrument to stay connected to friends when we cannot visit in person. I connect to my faith community after YouTube virtual church (mbchurch.ca) on Zoom.
There is no shame in asking for help. Be sensitive to the body language and facial expressions behind the masks you see in the local grocery store. Instead of asking, “How are you?” it is more helpful to ask, “How are you doing?” and wait to engage with the answer.
Separation and divorce on farms is amplified in this season. I’ve just met Sara McCullough, a certified divorce analyst, a great fee-for-service planner, and I’ll be sharing more about her unique approach in a future article. Visit www.wddevelopment.ca to find out more.
Asking for help in these trying times is a good thing.
For more content related to drought management visit The Dry Times, where you can find a collection of stories from our family of publications as well as links to external resources to support your decisions through these difficult times.