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Managing brothers who behave badly on the farm

Managing brothers who behave badly on the farm

“I can’t believe that we have farmed together for over 25 years, and the fights between these two brothers farming just don’t stop!” says the exasperated farm woman who has had enough.

This winter may be a good time to reflect on how you want things to be different at your farm. I think Dr. Michael Rosmann’s insight will be an encouragement to you, and here’s my application of his tips as a farm psychologist.

Brothers are typically competitive. How can you mange that?

1. Learn from each other. You each bring different skill sets to the operation, so how about having a learner mindset rather than a judger one? What can you take responsibility for to change?

2. Share your deepest needs and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. I have seen bachelor brothers clam up and not talk. I have witnessed a next-generation farmer longing for a leg up from an heirless uncle who just doesn’t want to help his brother’s family. UGH! People cannot read minds. Start exploring new possibilities about how each brother’s family can be a support to the other, and have a formalized meeting about the farm business plan, and the succession path you hope to take. Be civil in your conversations.

3. Honour each other at family gatherings. Be family. Love one another. Love is a much healthier choice than hate. Seek out a mental health worker or therapist if there are deeper issues that need healing. When you die you will not be remembered for the size of your tractor or wheat yields. Celebrate the family bonds that make you rich in relationship.

4. Affirm each other’s strengths. Say, “I am proud of what we have created together. You are an amazing… (fill in the blanks) and I appreciate your contributions to our success. Things are shifting now, and we need to face the fact that we are not getting any younger! What is best for our family, and what is best for our farm business?”

5. Embrace diversity. You might not have the same core values with your brother, and that is what is fuelling discord. I have often seen incompatibility in the work ethic or amount of work one brother is willing to keep performing compared to the “lazy” brother. Talk about your disappointments and don’t let resentment continue to build. Address the issues!

6. Separate, or have a plan to, before you arrive at that desire. As you age and reassess what is really important in your life, you might want to let go of your business partnership and create a new structure for the farm. I have seen this work wonderfully when three brothers recognized that their adult farming sons would not work well together, so they separated. This is OK, as long as a plan is well thought out, proactive, and all the emotion in the process is recognized.

Unresolved family conflict between two aging farm partners who are brothers is a common theme of my coaching work. You might want to read Cain’s Legacy, by Jeanne Safer, or the book Emotional Blackmail, by Susan Forward for more insights.

It saddens me when farm families are stuck in angst and conflict. What steps can you take today to have better harmony between brothers who farm together? Some of you who are sisters in the mix of partnering with your brothers may also be experiencing the same frustrations with competitions and values that are out of sync. In my seminars I have many audiences that have more than one successor, so there are several young farmers looking for benevolent uncles to create room for them.

Whatever your scenario looks like on your farm, start reaching out for help to change your current reality. Go to to explore my farm family tool box which is a download to help you. Reach out to your advisers if it is time to start planning an amiable separation. Stop hurting each other with nastiness, and choose to embrace responsibility for your behaviour.

Protect your family farm legacy. Treat your brother right. Love one another.

About the author


Elaine Froese is a Manitoba 150 Woman Trailblazer. She is passionate to guide farm families to find harmony through understanding. Her mission is for you to have rich relationships on your farm. Visit to learn more and book her for speaking engagements at



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