What Tommy and Fritz Can Teach Farm Families About Christmas


The Succession Saga – Part Four

By Dick Haney, Haney Farms

We heard this weekend how yet another of our brave soldiers in Afghanistan had perished in the line of duty. This is never happy news and it is most unhappy at Christmas time and all of our thoughts and prayers go out to this man’s family. As I contemplated this event, my thoughts were taken back to other Wars that have been fought through the ages. I remembered a story that I had once heard some time ago about the first Christmas of World War One in 1914. On Christmas Eve the combatants of both sides laid down their weapons, exchanged gifts of food and drink and had a soccer game. As the story goes, the German side won three to two. How was it possible for two armies battling it out in the most adverse and wretched conditions to gain if only fleetingly their sense of civility and humanity to briefly share in the Christmas celebration? I thought that before I used this story as a backdrop for this week’s article I should do some due diligence and make sure that it had taken place and wasn’t just a legend. The way it turns out it did in fact happen and although I’m sure that this story has morphed as it has been passed down through the ages. One very good account of this resides at Firstworldwar.com in a story entitled Christmas Truce. The following is a quote from that article

Today, pragmatists read the Truce as nothing more than a ‘blip’ – a temporary lull induced by the season of goodwill, but willingly exploited by both sides to better their defences and eye out one another’s positions. Romantics assert that the Truce was an effort by normal men to bring about an end to the slaughter.

“In the public’s mind the facts have become irrevocably mythologized, and perhaps this is the most important legacy of the Christmas Truce today. In our age of uncertainty, it comforting to believe, regardless of the real reasoning and motives, that soldiers and officers told to hate, loathe and kill, could still lower their guns and extend the hand of goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer.”

Interestingly enough, subsequent attempts were made in the following three years to arrange a similar truce but it was to no avail.

So, how does this relate to farming families and more specifically those farming families that are struggling with the succession issue this Christmas?

I hope that for each of you there is the opportunity to step back from the conflict that you are now experiencing and if even for a short time put the effort in to make it possible for your family to be a family first and a family business second. I think that unfortunately many of us forget what once was with regard to our relationships and instead become blinded by what is with little hope held out for the future of those relationships. So desperate for the opportunity to become a family again, I know of some families that have declared business free zones, whereby at a certain geographical location or event or holiday it is prohibited to discuss anything related to the business. This works quite well in some situations. Make an attempt this Christmas to rekindle the spirit of your family and then manifest this event into something that can last throughout the year. It just might be the start of a brand new opportunity for your family to be just a family. This is not to say that there are many business discussions that must take place, but it just may be possible to have the best of both worlds as long as everyone is prepared to realize and understand that the goals and objectives of the family may not always run in parallel with those of the business.

To those of you that would consider it impossible to have a normal family relationship because there have just been too many years of strife and conflict, with too many adversarial positions being taken and too many harsh words spoken, then I would suggest that you use the time to further cement the remaining relationships that you presently possess and resolve not to let those relationships end up as those irretrievable ones have. For those of us that have lost relationships, it makes the remaining ones all that more special.

I would hope that all can find the peace and goodwill in their relationships not only at Christmas time but throughout the whole year.

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