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The value of creating a plan b

Problem: When the farm is your identity, it can be hard to imagine a life without it.

I am worried about what’s next for my husband and me. We’ve been farming for 33 years. We’re farmers; that’s who we are. Yet the financial load is to the point where working harder and working more may not solve our problems. His silence is growing and so are my fears. How do we face the fact that we may need to leave the farm? - Submitted by email from R.K.D.


Although your question is short, I certainly “hear” the years of commitment, sacrifice, joy, and pain in your farming journey. No doubt you’re exploring or have explored ways to keep the farm going while providing a living for the family now and for your future. You face uncertain times.

The challenge we have in agriculture is that our world of farming and ranching is a consuming force. We live where we work, and we work where we live. We identify our home, our work, and who we are with terms relating to “the farm.” That’s great until we choose to or are forced to leave the farm. Then what?

Please know, many like you have reached out to me sharing a multitude of emotions tied to a transition. All are looking for options, help, and hope. Although I am not a counselor, I listen to personal and farm stories … or the silence of depression. I also understand the anger and unfairness, and the underlying consuming worry and fear. 

This is when you truly need the support of trusted neighbors, family, and friends; the professional help of your family doctor; your faith leader; a counselor; and other mental health professionals.

Here are a few helpful resources: 

  • Your local University Extension Service 
  • Farm and Rural Stress Hotline: 800/691-4336 
  • Locate a therapist in your area: 
  • Online counseling: 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 800/273-8255 or text MHFA to 74174

R.K.D., your question has given all who read this column a gift. You’re reminding everyone in agriculture to have a Plan B. This option is a concrete foundation for difficult times, but it also can play an important role if you continue in farming. 

Having a mental alternative of what else you could or would do gives you strength for creativity, necessary risk-taking, and flexibility in your changing environment. It is also the next step for those who retire or must change plans because of health or financial problems.

Plan B reduces the paralyzing fear underlying “I must succeed because this is the only thing I can do.” It expands the horizons of your self-worth. It might be time to give yourselves a mental cushion and brainstorm: “If we couldn’t farm, what would we do?”

Don’t shortchange your talents, skills, and abilities. From scientist and mechanic to public relations and marketing, from food and fiber specialist to veterinarian and decision maker, from employee and financial manager to lobbyist and leader, never underestimate your competencies. While you are farming, run with your ideas to use as you farm, or put them to use in your transition.

Finally, please know that I care about you and your husband. In closing, I share this quote by Alexander Graham Bell: “When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.” 

I wish you strength, courage, and positive options for Plan B.

Jolene Brown is a professional speaker, author, farmer, and family business consultant. She shares her passion, experience, and fun-filled spirit with farmers and ranchers across North America. Her tested business tools provide leadership and management solutions for the people who feed, clothe, and fuel the world.

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Will you have enough on-farm storage for harvest?

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Maybe, depending on yields
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