Farming together requires good communication, mutual respect and trust. It is necessary for everyone to be willing to give and take. This is probably the most stressful part of farming, explain Gary Hachfeld, former extension educator; David Bau, extension educator, and C. Robert Holcomb, extension educator, University of Minnesota Extension.
While this is not impossible, farmers should proceed carefully and in a planned fashion.
In any joint operation, good communications is vital. Cultivating good communication throughout the implementation and completion stages of a transfer is highly desired. Loss of communication leads to lack of trust and can eventually lead to devastating consequences.
Good communication in family farming arrangements is a vital link in the success of the farming business.
Try these ways to improve communication:
- When speaking, be brief and be specific.
- Don’t accuse, insult or blame.
- Don’t label, moralize or judge your business associates.
- Try to be positive, constructive and willing to compromise.
- When listening, listen intently. Focus and try to understand what is being said. Try to interpret it as the speaker intended.
- Disregard negative statements. Paraphrase what you hear. Find points of agreement and state them.
- Explain your motives honestly and truthfully. Apologize when needed and admit your mistakes.
Implementing these suggestions is not a simple task but can greatly improve communication and avoid unintended, negative consequences.
To foster better communication, you may want to consider family business meetings where the farming partners meet often to discuss day-to-day operations and issues that arise, as well as short and long-term business goals. Here is an example of what a family business meeting schedule might look like:
- Each morning at 6:30 a.m., partners meet briefly to lay out plans and responsibilities for the day’s work.
- On the first Monday of the month at 7:30 a.m., partners and spouses meet to discuss progress, problems, opportunities and other issues.
- Quarterly meetings are sometimes held to review progress toward goals, finances and working arrangements.
- Annually, partners and spouses meet to review finances, establish goals, review operations, establish hours, payment rates, rents, vacation schedules and other pertinent issues. This is also a time when they can celebrate a successful year of operation.