This is the story of two farming families and their daughters. It is a factual case study and highlights the impact of language and messaging; particularly between fathers and the future female farmer.
Although located in different regions, the farms and families are very similar. Both had one daughter and several sons. Both farms were similar in acreage and had a primary focus on livestock.
However, that is where the similarities end.
In the first family, the parents worked as a team and were always supportive of all the children. Father equally taught his daughter what he taught his sons. She could ride, weld, do books, run equipment, feed cattle, negotiate prices, plan and harvest crops, manage risk and a host of other tasks with the same talent and flair as her father. Mother ensured the boys could cook, clean, mow the lawn, tend to babies, budget, buy groceries and run a household with the same attention to detail as their mother.
In the second family, the sons were never to help in any way within the walls of the house. The women were to serve the men and this daughter was told repeatedly that girls do not work outside. Although she loved the farm, it was never a part of her in a way that she felt she could bring to life. That dream, and any discussion of it, was forbidden.
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The first family had a succession plan that ensured all children were treated equally. The kids knew those details and they grew up happy, confident and capable.
The second family did not have a succession plan and the parents did not support that discussion. Father suddenly demanded the oldest son take over the farm — selling it to him with thick ropes attached. No one, including the recipient son, was happy.
The daughter of the first family went to university and brought her education back to the farm. She ended up running the farm jointly and successfully with her siblings. There were no insurmountable disputes and they had a lot of fun.
The daughter who was told what she could not do also went to university and brought her skills back to her own farm where she and her husband are raising their children. She loves her farm but she can’t relate to her siblings. Her older brother has the farm without freedom and the younger sons feel constrained and uncomfortable going back home. So no one goes home.
Both women are very creative, well respected and successful in their industry — although they had a completely different childhood experience.
The supported daughter finds it easy to make decisions and take risks. The daughter who was not supported is conservative and has a lower risk tolerance, often feeling fearful of making a mistake.
What do you think happened here?
In the first farm, love conquered all but love alone does not build a team. The parents were transparent, engaging and honest. And they had a plan. They believed their children could do anything. Whenever challenge or crisis hits this family, the transition is nearly seamless because it is natural for everything to be on the table.
In the second farm, fear conquered all but fear does not nurture respect or confidence. This woman struggles. She did not feel loved as a child and there was never an opportunity to speak or act as a team. Her father would not have a discussion and did not see his children as equal. This created a deep fear that successfully silenced her and her siblings. When there is a challenge she carefully weighs her options and cautiously leans on her new family for support.
In all farm families we must remember that boys and girls are equal persons.
Parents are encouraged to let children determine for themselves what they are good at by gifting them the opportunity to try — even if it is risky or could be a wee bit expensive. There are boys who love to cook and decorate homes, and girls who love cows and mechanics.
Regardless of the child’s interest, there is no boundary on their capability. To think so is self-righteousness. To say so is prematurely judgmental and those words not only take away hope but build a wall between parent and child, eventually eroding the family.
As these two families face the future, the supported daughter says she will encourage her sons and daughters to explore and invest with boundless curiosity. The non-supported daughter is deeply in tune with the needs of her children but she is very careful to ensure that all decisions are actually on paper. Although she won’t take huge business chances, she has vowed to fully accept and encourage her children — thus breaking the cycle of fear and exclusion for future generations.
Despite their different beginnings, both women and their partners are nurturing their daughters and sons with an open acceptance of all that is possible.
They are providing their children a free and joyous space to live, learn and grow on the farm.