Family dynamics can change when a woman decides to return to the farm

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LONDON, Ohio — Women of all ages are returning to the family farm. That can be a good thing, but it can also cause confusion and, in some cases, hard feelings.

Julia Woodruff, an educator with Ohio State University Extension, talked about “making room for the farmer’s daughter” during a Farm Science Review “Question the Authorities” session.

“More and more women are coming back and getting involved in the farming operation,” Woodruff said.

Public perception

She explained it has been a public perception that it’s just the son who comes back and farms, but now that is changing, and with that comes some issues.

“It was not acceptable years ago. Now, it is becoming popular,” Woodruff said.

She said many women are returning to the farm after retiring from their first career, or are starting farming straight out of school, and so the search begins for their niche in the operation.

Jobs defined

Woodruff said many women are returning to take a business management role, but that can trigger some friction.

She said the most important part of the transition — for everyone involved, whether it be Mom, Dad and brother — is to have everyone’s roles defined from the beginning.

Woodruff said it is important to sit down and write down job descriptions and the duties that will carried out.

“Have each role defined. Decide who is going to be responsible for making the decisions and what decisions they can make,” said Woodruff.

She explained it can be difficult for whoever has been running the farm to accept assistance or even work with returning women sometimes.

“When a sibling has been running the farm and all of a sudden, you show up trying to give advice, it can lead to issues,” said Woodruff.

Personal story

A woman attending the seminar from Champaign County, Ohio, explained that she has retired and wanted to go back to working on the farm where her brother has been working.

After hearing complaints from her brother about not knowing when to sell his grain, she decided to take a class. After approaching him with suggestions about when to sell, he said he would sell when he wanted to and that was the end of the conversation.

Woodruff explained this can happen without good communication. Sometimes the one who has been on the farm feels intimidated and retreats.

Other times, it is a simple matter of attachment. She explained sometimes it is better for one person to do grain marketing and another handle the grain production.

“He may have a deeper attachment to the grain because he is the one that produced it,” Woodruff said.

Communication

She reiterated that keeping the lines of communication open is the only way to ensure a happy medium.

“Find ways to bridge the communication gaps. Be subtle and give suggestions,” said Woodruff. “Sometimes the best way to handle the situation is to be subtle.”

But she reminded everyone in attendance, no matter if it is a sister going back to the farm or even another brother, problems can arise.

“We all know, it is hard to farm as a family,” said Woodruff.

Passion and education

Woodruff suggested that if you are returning to the farm and have been away from the business, it is best to get educated, take classes such as Annie’s Project offered by the OSU Extension.

The number one thing she recommends to anyone who is considering a return to the farm is to ensure you have the passion. If someone involved does not have the passion, then everyone will suffer.

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