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Encouraging farm fathers

Elaine Froese for Progressive Dairy Published on 30 June 2020
Retired father

If I could show you a way to increase the family harmony on your farm and help you be more profitable at the same time, would you listen? Would you be courageous enough to look at your own issues, strengths and weaknesses? I bet you would if it was easy.

People problems on farms are nothing new. The fact is: Many farm families are avoiding a very basic thing that could make a huge difference to decrease their stress levels and increase energy for getting things done. It is encouraging the heart of your business – your people.



Here’s a list of practical encouragement based on the work of Gary Smalley and John Trent, who wrote The Gift of the Blessing. I’ve added some practical tools and geared it towards the farming father, whom we just celebrated a couple of weeks ago.

Ways to bless your farming father

1. Praise and acknowledgment. As founders age, they wonder what their new roles will be when their names are off the land titles or they aren’t the main manager anymore. Forty years of farming earns respect in my books. Can you acknowledge your dad’s wisdom and praise him for his hard work? With the Great Pause we are in, the uncertainty of the future drives more anxiety. Gratitude is a good antidote. Are you thankful for the “leg up” he has given your operation? Ask him what he thinks, and honour his opinion. All ages need affirmation. “I appreciate your input, Dad, and I respect your years of experience.”

2. Drain away unresolved anger. You change air and fuel filters for better performance. How about getting rid of your anger filters and work towards conflict resolution? Being angry sucks energy out of your being and decreases your efficiency as a farmer. What would you regret if you found Dad dead beside the baler? Any time is a good time for forgiveness and extending the olive branch to seek true peace in your family relationships. Smalley says unresolved anger “closes a person’s spirit. Prolonged anger can lead to depression, ulcers or high blood pressure. These are just a few of the emotional and physical problems that can accompany anger.”

Smalley suggests:

  • Become tenderhearted with your words; soften your tone.

  • Increase understanding by listening well and ask about the hurt.

  • Recognize the offense by admitting you were wrong.

  • Attempt to touch, even just a squeeze on the shoulder.

  • Seek forgiveness from the one you have offended.

3. Give the inheritance of a good name. What is your reputation worth? Are your actions adding value to the emotional bank account of your farm family? Are you proud of your behaviour and happy with your reputation? Being known as a “cranky old coot” is not my idea of success or legacy. I often tell families you “get the behaviour that you accept.” If you are doing something to harm the good name of your family … what is that really about? Are you going to hold the offenders accountable for their actions or just let the nasty actions slide?


Many farmers are avoiding confronting the tough issues destroying their family’s reputation. The neighbours are not fooled. Bad seed doesn’t produce a bountiful crop. What weeds are choking your good name? Deal with it.

I agree with Smalley when he says, “Our name is something that, no matter what, we will pass down to our kids, and it can either be a blessing or a curse.”

4. Take good care of your health. I received a lengthy letter from a young farmer with high blood pressure. He’s stressed by a farming brother who expects to be given a lot of assets without doing the accompanying work. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your health is your wealth.” Encourage your farm father and siblings to seek medical check-ups to ensure they are on a good health track. Stop avoiding the prostate tests and chest x-rays or heart tests. Your family doesn’t want you to be a martyr; they want a happy, healthy team player who lives a long, high-quality life.

5. Teach financial responsibility. Farmers have the hard work ethic down pat. Unfortunately, it can get out of whack and become workaholism or avoidance of building relationships. Are you rich in relationship? Have you taught your adult children to work hard, live well within their means and see money as a resource to be managed, not a god?

Whatever your money values or what money means to you, it is driving your business decisions. Some farm men can’t wait to share their net worth with me, but they are less comfortable sharing the names of their best friends. They usually don’t have many in their emotional support group, as they have been highly focused on providing for their families and creating wealth.

Teaching financial responsibility also means that people earn their net worth and aren’t just given everything or have a keen sense of entitlement. With land values adding more zeros to the balance sheet, I see more greed in conversations. Have you thanked your dad and mom for their financial support? Are you demanding too much? How much net worth is enough?


6. Let go … avoid over-controlling. On coaching calls, I usually have a card that says “power and control.” This issue is a delicate one for your dad, as he is afraid of failure but doesn’t know how to talk about it. He fears the large debt load you are carrying and how it is going to hinder your future flexibility. He fears his role is not useful anymore but, so long as he has some power and control, you will need to listen to him. He also fears that after 40 years of hard work and building up a business, you just might sell the assets and “cash in” in five years when the business is in your name.

People have control issues for many reasons. Have some courageous conversations to discover why dad is having a hard time letting go. Assure him of your long-term commitment and dedication to the farm business and family legacy. Smalley says we should bless our children by allowing them to take positive control of their lives as they grow older. If you are over 40, with little control of your farm business, something needs to change soon.

7. Return words of blessing to your father. Say the words. Write the note. Embrace and encourage your farming father. It’s time.  end mark

Getty Images.

Elaine Froese has a gift for you. When you email her to say you shared words of affirmation with your dad, she’ll reply with a copy of her new e-book Farm Coach Insights, Tools For Better Communication.

Elaine Froese
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