Farm transition, working with family, and showing gratitude — a LIVE! Q&A with Jolene Brown


Living with extended family can be hard enough; adding work, money, and legacy to the mix makes it nearly impossible. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and Jolene Brown, farmer, speaker, and author, joins this RealAg LIVE! to talk about the trials and tribulations of farming with family.

Brown is entertaining, real, and compassionate — she’s also tough, fair, and no-nonsense, and you’ll hear all of that in the video below, or download the audio for later! And check out more resources on her site,

Don’t miss RealAg LIVE! each Tuesday to Thursday at 3 pm Eastern across social media!

  • Jolene is the real Farmer Brown, farming for 35 years, and familiar to many in Canada as an entertaining speaker
  • The goal is to keep those conversations going long after she’s spoken to a group
  • How can farmers and farm families get over those road blocks to farm management and transition?
  • It CAN be done right, with the upstarts and old farts. The first thing Jolene does is divide them up and asks, “What keeps you up at night? Why do you need the other generation? The answer is usually babies and bladders.
  • If you’ve built a business worthy of transitioning, it’s a journey to keep it moving forward, not a one-time meeting and done
  • Family business challenges during COVID-19: it’s important to be good neighbours right now. And make time for those really important conversations, ask hard questions. Check in. Because our people are the most important part of the farm.
  • Create space for people to commiserate, celebrate, share, or just be heard
  • When it comes to money, every member needs clarity — without clarity, you get fear, confusion, and hurt feelings
  • How do you set up that conversation? Talking about money makes people uncomfortable!
  • Talking about money has to be in the context of the bigger picture business plan
  • Money is for work done, not for simply being. That has start from a very young age. Entitlement is a huge barrier in farm transition
  • The ups and downs of the farm business can sometimes impact expectations (re: wages, bonuses)
  • Work off the farm for a time to learn your work value and what you bring to the farm
  • It’s not fair to bring someone on to the farm to fix your financial mess, either.
  • Leadership needs to know and understand that mistakes happen, but make sure that everyone can learn from and move on from mistakes
  • We need buddy seats for management, not just tractors. “Help me understand what went in to that decision?”
  • Poor leadership is: Watch and then you’ll know. Get out of my way, I can do it quicker. Read my mind.
  • A trend to businesses with peers vs. family. Which is likely stronger from a business perspective, but perhaps not financially. (The equity trap!)
  • Farms still need a leader, even if siblings or family members are all “equal.” Evaluations are conversations not judgements. And require action and measured improvements.
  • It’s very important that the exiting/older generation knows they are financially secure, and don’t apologize for needing that
  • That was then, and this is now. Each transition might look very different over each generation.
  • The role of an advisory council — how do you put one together?
  • Do we have common goals and all pulling in the same direction?
  • Sometimes, if you want to be family, you’re not going to work together
  • Have a daily huddle, checking in over time, and an annual meeting, including spouses
  • Labour and management is usually handed over first, but eventually ownership has to be passed on, too
  • Remember gratitude! Gratitude for what has gone before
  • Boundaries — at home, their home, your home, the refrigerator. Having boundaries deters resentment

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