Your Farm’s Emotional Tank Needs Checking

Elaine Froese | As a farm partner, I absolutely love this time of year. Harvest is the reward we work hard towards all year long. Many families find the blow-ups of this season hard to manage. So, here’s a refresher on what you need to check besides greasing your combines.

The culture of your farm is the glue holding things together. Quite simply it’s:

  1. What you believe to be true. If you think your son is an idiot and cannot do anything right you are already setting up for lack of respect, emotionally driven mistakes, and a very stress-filled field run. Some belittled adult successors chose just to shut down and avoid the offending founder as much as possible, or vice versa. You can imagine how much wasted time and distracted management decreases the efficiency of the harvest when people are smoking’ mad at each other all the time. At our farm, we believe every person is worthy of respect. When problems arise, we attack the issue not the person.

  2. How are you behaving? Your bodies are not machines. They need rest, good food fuel, and time to regenerate. There’s a myth in agriculture that you will “sleep when you die” and the crop must come off no matter what. Yes, nights may be short, but you cannot afford to run your body on “fumes” because you will pay for it in stress, accidents, and blow-ups that need your patience to resolve, not knee-jerk reactions. We all get the behaviour we accept. If you are needing more instructions, ask for it. If you don’t think what you are being asked to do is safe, say something and make corrections. If you see actions that are totally not in alignment with how the person usually behaves, don’t just let it go, find out if they are okay. Harvest is a good time to practice the art of “quick repair.” “I’m sorry I made a mistake; I’ll do it differently next time. I really appreciate your forgiveness and grace with me. I am getting tired.”

  3. How are decisions being made? Do you open the headlands first? Do you consider how to make life easier for the grain cart operator? Has someone told Mom how many people are needing to be fed tonight? With a spirit of collaboration and cooperation, decision-making can be a beautiful thing when weather forces last-minute changes, or things break down. Attitude is everything. On our farm, it is clear who the main manager is, and the older founder’s wisdom and experience are respectfully considered when the day’s plans are formulated. When extended families and friends are part of the harvest crew, it may not be clear who is the main decision-maker. Get this figured out well before you start combining.

The ability to express emotions is a healthy skill for conflict resolution. Steven Covey talked about “your emotional bank account”, which means the ways you put deposits of good relational behaviour into the accounts of the folks in your workplace or family. It is helpful for farm families to create fun times together before the busyness of harvest strikes. Our harvest is going to be ready all at one time, so we do what we can in a day, rest, and repeat.

Do you understand you have the power to put good feelings into the folks on your farm? When you are blind to the power you have to choose emotional health, you might be ignorant of how your lack of emotional agility is causing stress to others.

Here’s an example. The founder is used to always being in control of the harvest and has a certain way things are to be done. This year, the main manager is the next generation. Founders need to be aware of how they may be focusing on one brother or sister, giving them heaps of attention and time to talk, yet not giving the other team members the same amount or fair amount of conversational time and listening. This creates a sense of not being valued or heard which can light the match to many harvest blow-ups. Deal with this by asking better questions when you sense someone is not feeling valued or heard.

“What would you like me to do differently? “Listen to the response.

Feelings are important indicators of what is going on with your circumstances. Knowing how to express yourself beyond, being mad, sad, or glad takes some effort. My grandchildren have a box of Feelings Flash Cards by Todd Parr. They are learning to express disappointment, frustration, loneliness, anger, and a myriad of other feelings to help them navigate their days.

What would it look like this harvest if your first response was not anger? Anger is typically fueled by hurt, fear, and frustration. As founders age in place on the farm or ranch, they maybe more terrified than you know. Where is it written selling the farm and breaking a chain of 3 generations of farmers is a sign of failure? Well for many founders, this is reality when they realize the culture of their farm has broken down so badly there is no hope of folks wanting to continue in the chaos. Thoughts like these run rampant during high-conflict harvests.

Here’s some language to practice on the 2-way radio or cell phone:

  • Do you need a break?

  • What would you like me to do differently?

  • Are you sure you are okay; you sound like you didn’t get a very good sleep last night?

  • Have you checked to see how late folks can work tonight? What is everyone expecting?

  • What are you frustrated about today?

  • It is okay to ask for help, how can I help you?

  • Do you want some quiet time?

  • When do you want to talk about fixing this conflict you are avoiding?

  • What do you want from me to make things right?

  • Have you made some promises to the grandkids I don’t know about?

Assumption-free harvest is the best. Emotions run high when the culture accepts bad behaviour. Treat others well and expect the best from your team. Affirm what is being done well and say “Thank you.”

Make sure your emotional tank is full this harvest.

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Elaine Froese and her team of coaches help families find harmony through understanding. Visit here to book a free discovery call. Book Elaine to speak this winter.

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