Farm Coaching: Supporting Relationships for Farm Success

Farm barnHealthy relationships between partners, spouses, employees, apprentices, and family members are vital to a farm’s success.

If these relationships are challenged by stress or lack of clear communication, the farm may not succeed. With support, each person and farm is stronger.

Ideas to Reduce Stress

  • Have some time away during the week
  • Set up a farm-family meeting
  • Review who does what on the farm
  • Design an (approximate) calendar for the week

How can I make my farm a better place for me, my employees, and my family?

TALK TO A COACH – Fill out the form below

Farm Coaching Request

Thank you for reaching out. Use this form to request a quick chat or learn more about signing up for multiple sessions of farm coaching. A member of the farm coaching team will contact you to talk more about what you need.
  • How can we help? A brief description is all that is needed.
  • How would you like us to contact you?

Call “911” if you are in crisis and need immediate assistance.

Other helpful warmlines and hotlines for help:

FarmAid Hotline 1-800-327-6243 (1-800-FarmAid; M-F 9-5)

Maine Intentional Warmline 1.866.771.9276 (WARM) (24/7 availability)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255

StrengthenME  207-221-8198 (8am-8pm)

Interested in working through conflict with a neutral third party? The Maine Agricultural Mediation Program may be able to help.

Check out these ideas for farm, family, and business communication, goal setting, and making decisions on the farm to start now with your fellow farmers whether they are family members, employees, or business partners.

Small Bites are brief reads for reflection and focus to support well being.

What is Farm Coaching?

A four-session program for farmers to identify challenges and opportunities, develop a plan, and work together to make clear decisions. We also provide one-time coaching sessions to help you organize your thoughts and think through the next steps with the farm and family. Farm coaching is a time to talk with two coaches who can guide you through activities and conversation to improve your communication and ways of working together with your family, work partners, and employees. If other issues arise, there may be needs for mediation or counseling and coaches can work with you for referrals.

This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28588

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Roots of the Work

In 2016, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Beginning Farmer Resource Network started a project focused on farmers and social sustainability. The project began with a survey to better understand the needs of beginning farmers (in their first 10 years) with respect to the social, emotional, and relational issues that arise. It was generously funded by Northeast Sustainable Agriculture, Research, and Education.

Through grants from Northeast Extension Risk Management Education in 2019 and 2020, this work directly supports farmers through the development of a farm coaching program.

In the fall of 2016, we began to explore the specific interpersonal and relational needs of beginning farmers at different points of time in farming with a survey. We developed a DACUM, or “job description” of beginning farmers and to create a profile that included interpersonal skills and needs (New England Small Farm Institute, 2000). Providers were part of a cohort that developed written resource materials for use by other providers to help in their work with farmers.

A Toolkit was created for service providers to use during one-on-one consultations that include questions, prompts, and additional resources, as needed (O’Connell, 2014). The toolkit includes the following areas:

  • Beginning Farmer Learning Stages: Identifying the gaps in new farmer training models and learning about how interpersonal needs may change with development of the farm business or as family priorities change. For the purposes of this project, “interpersonal skills” included:
    • Communication: Identifying the relationships and roles on the farm and tools to improve communication between family members, farm partners, employees, customers, and other decision makers.
    • Decision-making: Utilizing existing tools to prioritize tasks and plan in advance
    • Goal-setting: Developing tools for assisting farmers in prioritization of farm, business, and family goals.
    • Time Management: Utilizing existing resources to assist farmers in optimizing farm roles and responsibilities.

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