Flexible roles can help farm families cope

Farm Forum

On a late afternoon during harvest last fall I was in my garden enjoying the opportunity to unwind after a busy day by meditating while picking beans, pulling a few weeds and appreciating the outdoors.

My farm tenant, Larry, drove his grain cart next to the auger leading to the corn bin, while his helper, Gary, parked the John Deere combine in my farmyard. They were “calling it a day.”

Gary started the auger while Larry opened the grain vent of the self-unloading cart to allow corn to flow into the auger. Usually it takes 15 minutes to unload the cart, so the fellows had some time on their hands.

I hoped the guys wouldn’t notice me. But they spied me even though I was trying to hide behind the trellised green beans. I use old cattle panels attached to steel posts for the beans to climb.

When they meandered over to my garden I figured it was more than to say hello. They wanted to give me a little guff. (Actually I was thinking of another word that starts with “s” instead of guff.)

“Hey Mike, what are you doing in the garden,” Larry said. “This is women’s work, you know.”

“Beats helping you guys,” I replied. “Besides I enjoy it.”

Noticing my pepper plants with skinny red pods drooping, Gary ventured, “You don’t eat these things, do you?”

“Of course,” I replied. “I like hot foods.”

Besides giving me a “hard time” every so often, Larry, Gary and Larry’s son, Lynn, have also pitched in to help Marilyn and me in times of need. Just a couple weeks ago Lynn plowed out our driveway with his tractor when I was hobbling from a knee injury. They regularly and generously help keep our premises maintained.

Dr. Fetsch offers additional suggestions about how resilient families build healthy family relations. I added a few of my own recommendations as well. Family members should:

· Be aware of each others’ strengths, skills and weaknesses

· Focus on family strengths rather than problem areas

· Openly exchange communications about needs and feelings

· Reduce blame and accept responsibilities

· Use democratic or consensus decision-making rather than autocratic decision-making

· Hold family meetings to solve problems

· Adjust family roles in response to needs for the entire group

· Share together in sacrifices when needed

· Encourage spirituality and humor

· Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others outside the family

· Recognize acts of kindness by showing appreciation to the giver of the kindness

How does your family cope during stressful times? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with me.

I especially thank Larry, Vicki and Gary for reviewing and approving this article.