Real resiliency requires communication on a regular basis…once a month, once every two weeks or once a week. You might even choose to have a brief 2-5 minute check-in on a daily basis! Regular farm family meetings can accomplish several goals:
1. Create an open, trusting atmosphere
2. Set goals and discuss strategies for reaching them
3. Make decisions and solve problems as they arise
4. Delegate responsibilities and work assignments
5. Schedule vacations and times off
6. Make financial decisions/share financial information
7. Make legal decisions and record agreements
8. Air grievances and give compliments
9. Share long-range hopes, goals and dreams
10. Keep conversation flowing and foster camaraderie
Guidelines for organizing meetings
It can be helpful to keep a few simple guidelines in mind as you organize your farm family meetings:
1. Participation – Everyone involved in the farming operation should be involved or given a chance to participate; involvement fosters ownership in the operation.
2. Environment – Establish an open, trusting environment where everyone feels respected and everyone feels comfortable expressing their views.
3. Leadership – Consider rotating the facilitation of meetings…it fosters equality, democracy and a sense of shared leadership in the operation.
4. Agendas – Create an agenda for each meeting; make sure everyone’s agenda items are included; stick to the agenda so meetings don’t drag on and on.
5. Listening – Follow the rule that only one person speaks at a time; practice the art of active listening (say what you heard the other person say before speaking yourself).
6. Disagreements – If there are disagreements, listen to both perspectives then find a solution that works for all; seek outside help if a disagreement turns into conflict.
7. Recognition – Celebrate successes and make sure family members are recognized for their contributions; compliments can prevent disagreements and conflicts.
8. Information – Make sure all information—good and bad—is shared; foster an attitude of sharing information, ideas and plans for the future!
Farm family meetings can be one of the best ways of fostering communication and resilience in multi-family farming operations. Try these ideas—they work!