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Minding Your Business Farm family harmony by the book

Authors offer suggestions on how to build and maintain positive relationships.

By Judie Steeves F

arms are inevitably family businesses, so the dynamics of those relationships in the family—including the in-laws—are critical to the farm running efficiently. It’s for that reason farm family coach Elaine Froese and conflict specialist Dr. Megan McKenzie wrote Farming’s In-law Factor: How to have more harmony and less conflict on family farms.

“Given the number of farmers approaching the age of transition, Farming’s In-law Factor is particularly relevant to your readers,” says Froese.

“The practical ideas and tools found in the book are helpful to support farm families to remain healthy and strong through the challenges that come with farming together as a family,” she adds.

Studded with examples the pair have either experienced themselves, or in their work, the book is written in clear and compelling language with illustrations and stories that bring their words to life.

There’s a list of tips for farm founders, including the suggestion that regular family meetings should be held, with an agenda, where everyone should have a chance to be heard, but where respect is essential. For farm decisions, they suggest a brainstorming session where, if there’s not agreement, everyone writes down the option that is least favourable to them. Often that leads to a result everyone can live with. They emphasize that

communication, collaboration and mutual respect are essential elements in a successful farm family—and the business they run.

They advise that different cultural backgrounds, traditions, habits and ways of doing things must be viewed

Elaine Froese, left, and Megan McKenzie, co-authors of Farming’s In-law Factor: How to have more harmony and less conflict on family farms.

with respect by both families when marriage brings different families together to run a farm. An open mind can help each to see where the other is coming from in a discussion, even if it remains unspoken.

There are chapters exploring the culture of agriculture and rural communities; farm family systems; conflict on the farm; daughter-in-law; mother-in-law; father-in-law; son-in law; extended in-laws; a toolbox for action; and when things don’t work out.

Using common sense and their extensive experience helping farm families through some tough times, Froese and McKenzie are able to provide invaluable guidance in areas where you didn’t even know you needed some assistance. And, it’s not just to help everyone feel the love around the dinner table at the end of a hard day.

As they explain, good relationships on the farm result in a more profitable farm operation. They can

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2016

actually make the difference between a successful, profitable business and one that’s a failure. Dysfunctional families can almost guarantee the farm’s decline.

Froese has helped people in agriculture work through issues for more than 30 years, all across Canada.

She’s been described as a catalyst for change in farm families and their businesses. She farms in southwestern Manitoba with her husband and married son and daughter-in-law, driving a combine and preparing meals for the field. She knows first-hand what she’s talking about.

McKenzie grew up on a farm and now lives in a small rural prairie community in Manitoba. She has worked around the world helping in human rights work, mediation and conflict resolution.

Purchase the book through either author’s website, which you can find by searching the title.


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