I suspect the mom’s plan was to have a “switch of homes,” but I am not sure everyone shared her thoughts.
Here are a few other statements I’ve heard and how they can be viewed differently.
‘Dad grew up in this house. He has lived here all his life. It is all he knows!’
Yes, there is a deep emotional attachment to your family of origin. Women find this interesting to process, as they were uprooted the day after their wedding (unless, of course, they are the successor). The spouse who is tired of living on the main yard where the dairy barn beckons is likely ready for a quieter lifestyle. They also may want a smaller, easier, more up-to-date space to keep clean.
Is it time for the spouse who has sacrificed their wants while living on the farm to have a chance at the life they desire? This is difficult to discuss when a spouse doesn’t have the emotional capacity to consider what the other spouse needs from them to be happier.
In order to accomplish a downsize, you often have to jettison stuff. You might want to hang farm pictures in the farm office away from the family home. The artifacts with deepest meaning can move to the new parental home, and others can have a place of honor at the main farm. I’ve seen some families create a family room over the garage or in a separate building where many loved items are displayed for all the family to enjoy.
‘Mom is widowed, but she is staying put to tie quilts and tend to her perennial garden and raspberries!’
Gardening is a great activity for health and well-being. Where is it written that if you move, you can’t still have access to the farm garden? Or maybe you’d have more fun at a community garden in your new condo in town. In 2008, a group of us built an apartment complex in our town. We thought people would be grateful to not do yard work but, amazingly, the garden tends to increase in size each year. The yearning to watch things grow and harvest the fruits of your labour doesn’t change when you leave the farmyard.
If you are staying put to tend your flower beds, this likely will shift in the next decade. Are you willing to put a timeline on the date you will be moving to an off-farm location?
My garden is 30% the size it once was. Now I have a dream and goal to teach grandchildren the love of spinach and cherry tomatoes.
‘You can take the farmer off the farm, but you cannot take the farm out of the farmer’
As farmers, it’s efficient to be close to the livestock that need daily care and be able to close grain bins fast in poor weather as well as monitor the fans. Take time to ask the founders what a good day on the farm looks like to them. One farmer, who now lives off the farm, takes great delight in meeting his son for management meetings in the farm shop and checking the list on the whiteboard for jobs he’d like to tackle that day.
Maybe Dad is hesitant to move because he will miss the shop too much. Our condo complex has a workshop with tools to help encourage the fix-it people to have a place to create and be handy.
Older farmers who are now re-inventing themselves as the hired help again, gain energy when they can trust the work on the farm is getting done, even when they are not close enough to inspect the work and its progress.
I have seen families build a granny suite onto the home to accommodate parents living on the farm well into old age. Others may move to a small farm nearby and receive help with the yard work and ploughing the driveway. Each family has to collaborate their decision-making and adapt to changing needs to find what is right for them.
‘Mom needs to have her office space in her house to do the farm books’
News flash: You can do farm books digitally from a distance. You can also start mentoring a new bookkeeper and plan for a farm office that is not connected to a personal dwelling. If there isn’t space in a farm building, consider a mobile office trailer.
Having an office separate from the house increases the professionalism of the business system and creates a space that non-family employees can also access easily. It also leads to more financial transparency between the generations on the farm.
‘How does it feel to build a house on land you do not own?’
The pride and security of personal home ownership is a key goal for the next generation. There needs to be a huge degree of trust and agreement when the parents allow a second dwelling on the same farmyard.
I have a “half-mile rule,” where I suggest the in-laws live at least a half-mile apart. We amended this for our own son when his wife asked to live across the windbreak. It works out well, as we still have privacy. I was OK about not leaving my home of 38 years and don’t get house envy except when I watch too much HGTV.
You don’t want volatile family dynamics with housing that is close by. There are also tax implications with assessments, so check out the financial ramifications with your accountant. Interspousal agreements should also be considered. If the couple next door divorces, is the non-farm spouse forced to move? Yikes. Couples should understand the legal implications of a split when their home is built on land owned by a farm corporation. Discussion should also be had about who will pay for the new build and future renovations.
Don’t assume. Have these discussions with everyone on the farm team to create solutions together.
Elaine Froese helps families talk about tough issues. She is living out farm transition challenges happily with her husband and family next door.
- Certified Farm Family Coach
- Email Elaine Froese