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What to do when things do not work out…

It’s summer, and you are wondering if this is the last season for you working on the farm because you are tired of chronic fighting. No matter how hard you have worked at trying to get along and make things work, sometimes the conflict situation cannot be resolved. You need to move on, realizing that you can only control your own actions. To continue in the muck takes endless energy, and it is draining you.

You can’t fix other people. You may try to influence them, but they are stonewalling, broken, or facing mental health issues that are barriers to functioning well. You need to let go.

Look for signs that are telling you it is time to go:

  •  Losing sleep over a long period of time, more than a year, because you have gone through all the seasons of the farm, and nothing has changed. A year is enough time to think things over and make a shift.
  •  When you cannot stop crying, kicking or have uncontrollable anger or prolonged sadness. Your stomach pains and headaches are signs that your body is not dealing well with internalized stress.
  •  Your relationship to your spouse or partner, and your children is rocky because of the farm team stress.
  •  When you cannot stop talking about the fights, and the conversations keep reverting back to the same old story. People who care about you are telling you that they are sick of hearing about it, and they are concerned you are staying in the mess.
  •  If it is costing you financially. Farming should be profitable, and not a sinkhole for your outside resources.
  •  If there is chronic conflict on the farm team, ask yourself, “Why am I still here?”
  •  If you have tried farm coaching, mediation or counselling, using outside interventions, and things still don’t change, it is time to move on.
  •  The grass is starting to look greener outside the farm fence, so you are starting to see other options for your life. For example, you finish your electrician ticket, and move on to a new career, or you move to farm with your wife’s family.
  •  You have deep value conflict issues, knowing you cannot negotiate value differences. For example, younger families typically put a high value on work/life balance, while the founders often are workaholics, so the work ethic value will never be negotiated well. You need to accept that core values drive the way people do things and frame their expectations.
  •  When your vision for the growth or sustainability of the farm is highly different from your business partners, you may see it as time to farm separately or follow other pursuits.
  •  When a farm team member is violent, abusive, manipulative, or has a huge sense of entitlement, sometimes this is an indicator that you need to leave more quickly, and end that farming relationship.

What do you do next? Step back, and think things through logically:

1. What is really important to you now, and what do you hope to see happen?

Identify where you want to be, and set your current priorities. Example: economic goals, family goals, time goals.

2. What do you want the relationship to the family to look like when you leave the farm?

Know that you don’t have to stay so physically close or emotionally close to them. You get to decide the healthy boundaries of the relationship. You may need some “cooling off” time. If relationships are super nasty, you may not be able to continue any communication or only have very limited contact with certain criteria.

3. What are your options for exiting?

This is tough and complex depending on how intertwined you are with the farm business. My experience is that few farm families have operating or partnership agreements that clearly spell out how one partner leaves the business. Sort out the financial implications of leaving. What will be the assets you take with you? What is your new income stream going to be? Have you updated your resumé or sought assistance from an employment counsellor?

4. Where would you live next?

Many farms own all the houses on the property. Leaving the family business can also mean leaving your house behind. Just the threat of looking for a new home in town, or the next community, may be the tipping point to start a reconciling conversation to force change.

5. How do you want to be family when it is all said and done?

Richness in relationship comes with hard work to make it work, and intentionality. Grandparents long to see their grandkids, and farming sons and daughters who leave, want some kind of connection, on their own terms. What baby steps can you take to build up your emotional bank account with your family? Is your spouse willing to engage in this process with you?

6. What are your timelines and deadlines for each element of the change?

For example, in the next two weeks, “I am writing my resumé, and looking online or asking around for jobs.” Look at new training possibilities; allow yourself to dream. There are new opportunities. Make an appointment with the accountant to figure out the asset mix and financial implications of leaving the farm partnership. Consider using a counsellor or mediator to define the healthy boundaries you are willing to accept with your family relationships. Write down your goals and vision for the next chapter of your life.

7. Network with friends, and find your support group for this transition.

This might be tricky if all your friends are very intertwined with your business life. Perhaps professionals, or far-away friends will give a clearer perspective.

8. Grieve the losses and celebrate your successes.

Any time you move into a new phase of your life, you need to let go of things in order to create space for new opportunities. You may have sadness, anger, and sense of loss as you grieve what could have been. You have given up all hope of a better past and any dreams that you had for your farm. Be proud of the accomplishments that you have achieved in your time on the farm, however small they may be.

9. Resist the urge to cave in, if your decision is well thought out and agreed upon with your spouse.

Tough decisions have tough consequences, and this is not going to be easy.

I’d like to hear your stories of exiting well. Dr. Megan McKenzie and I are working on the book Farming’s In-Law Factor. Contact www.elainefroese.com/contact or call 1-866-848-8311. Go to Farm Family Coach to “like” Elaine on Facebook. †

About the author

Contributor

Elaine Froese is a certified farm family coach and farm partner. Seek her out at www. elainefroese.com or call 1-866-848-8311. Buy her books for your mom. Share your stories of how these phrases have impacted you. Elaine wants to hear from you on Facebook at “farm family coach” or Twitter @elainefroese.

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