7 farm stress causes and cures
By Dr. Donald J. Jonovic
1. Refusing to talk. It's hard to get everyone to talk, especially when the subject is a difficult one, like succession or ownership transfer.
Cure: Force conversation through regular meetings, but assure safe boundaries with set agendas.
2. Embracing assumption as truth. "My sister just blew up at me. She hates me." Really? Have your motives and reactions never been misunderstood?
Cure: Establish a meeting code of conduct that allows others to explain their goals and concerns before they're judged. Realize you don't know your partners as well as you think you do.
3. Trying to alter the past. Repeating the same mistakes and hoping for different results is a common definition of insanity. You tend to revisit past hurts and harmful actions, trying to get others to agree on your version of what happened and who's to blame.
Cure: Once you have disciplined and safe conversations, determine what you can learn from the past and how to do things differently.
4. Shunning the in-laws. When the outsiders who marry into your family are resented or mistrusted because they don't fit seamlessly into your culture, that's shunning, and it's devastating.
Cure: Remember they are the parents of your next generation. Doesn't this alone warrant them a seat at the discussions about the future?
5. Surrendering to circumstance. There are many uncontrollable variables in farming, but you can control how you react. The dysfunction is using unpredictability as an excuse not to plan.
Cure: Continually discuss evolution and adaptation. You can't eliminate uncertainty, but you can mitigate the impact of known threats.
6. Keeping all options open. Remember Jonovic's Universal Rule: If an important agreement isn't in writing, it doesn't exist. Written statements of understanding ensure clarity. They only close options if they are irrevocable.
Cure: Record important intentions and agreements in writing, always with the option to talk, review, and restructure as circumstances change.
7. Doing it alone. Since you don't talk or share your problems with each other, much less your advisers, you certainly can't expect outsiders to help you.
Cure: Commit to Cures 1 through 6, and then bring in the advisers you need to maximize their benefit and your resulting better health.
There are seven fundamental causes of avoidable stress on the family farm. I call them The Seven Deadly Dysfunctions. Here they are, with "cures" for mitigating each one.