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Stop! Leave Me Out of It!

CHERYL TEVIS 03/15/2011 @ 10:49am

Some days it seems that everyone comes to you when help is needed. The cows are out, the tractor is stuck, the 4-H fair livestock forms are missing, and there's a website you need to access to retrieve information! You're always on call.

Over the years, women have been given great-sounding job descriptions for the many and varied roles they play in the farm operation: Women are the heart of the home. Women are the peacemakers. Women are the sounding boards. All true, of course.

But what's the flip side of these multiple roles women on the farm have taken on in the family and business?

Women are dumped on a lot, right? And it's stressful.

"Many times a woman will come up to me after I've been speaking and tell me how tired she is of being dumped on," says Jolene Brown, West Branch, Iowa, farmer. "Usually it's coming from the man in her life. Or sometimes from her adult children in the farm operation."

Brown, a professional speaker and family business consultant, says, "I ask did you cause the problem? Can you control or change it? If not, say, 'Stop! Sounds like you have a problem with Joe. I think you need to talk to him.' Then walk away."

That's not to say that Brown thinks women should turn their backs on their family members or the
farm business.

Instead, she advocates the need to be a Business First Family. "A successful Business First Family doesn't sacrifice family for business but values the family and has the family's best interest at heart," she says. "That's why they do the business correctly."

Studies have shown that farm women play a vital role in the success of a family farm transfer. Women involved in successful farm transfers are good listeners who are able to compromise the conflicting needs of various family members. One characteristic stands out: the ability to mediate.

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Traditionally, farm families have assumed that because they love each other, they'll be able to work together successfully in a business.

But there's a lot of stress involved in holding a multigeneration farm family together if the business is not structured properly and continues to operate without short- and long-range plans.

I remember one of my first story sources, a pioneer in stress workshops, who told me, "A woman can be caught in the middle of a father-son partnership that would require a psychiatrist to handle."

Jolene Brown is not a psychiatrist, but she's the next best thing. I first met her in 1982. At that time, she had launched her own business specializing in life management and goal setting.

Brown, a former teacher, targeted stress, communication, time management, motivation, and personal and business relationships.

Brown even organized a network of Iowa farm women because she felt women needed to share and celebrate their roles both on and off the farm.

Now Brown can add author to her name. Her book, Sometimes You Need More Than A 2×4!, offers how-to tips to successfully grow a family business.

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