Bulletin #4801, Maine Farms: Why Gratitude Matters

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Maine Farms: Life and Business in Balance

By Leslie Forstadt, Human Development Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

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This publication series, Maine Farms: Life and Business in Balance, provides ideas for you to consider about the human and relational skills of farming including how to have farm team meetings, stress management, defining roles, and talking about life and business balance, or what some people think of as “work/life integration.” Whatever it means to you, this series is intended to provide you with useful ideas to consider.

Titles include:

Two older farmers pressing apple cider

However and wherever you farm, it always feels good to be appreciated and to hear “thank you.” Farming is a complex, sometimes underappreciated experience that is often a labor of love. Too often the hectic pace, the tremendous workload, and the numerous stresses overshadow opportunities for farm managers, family members, and colleagues to express appreciation to one another. The focus becomes on getting the job done with priority on the farm tasks and feedback about logistics, with little time or space for gratitude.

If all the busyness does not include hearing “thank you,” you may feel unrecognized and taken for granted instead of appreciated and celebrated. In reality, it is not that you are not appreciated, but rather that appreciation is not expressed or shared between those who are working together. Small and large tasks contribute to the success of the farm and when gratitude is built into the day, the day feels different. Expressions like “Thank you,” “I appreciate you,” “Without you, that would never get done!”,” or “Your work matters,” are reminders that it takes the whole team to make the farm a success. Hearing these words can increase feelings of appreciation, acknowledgment, motivation, and pride. Research finds that while hearing the words is beneficial, saying thanks and expressing gratitude also benefits health and well-being.1

Why Gratitude Pays Off

Everyone benefits from gratitude. The person being thanked feels noticed and appreciated, the person doing the thanking benefits from the act of gratitude, and finally, the team members who witness appreciation are also positively affected. In an environment without gratitude, it’s easy for a person to think “no matter how hard I try or how many hours I work, I never hear a word of appreciation or praise for what I have done well.” This can lead to family members or employees not only feeling underappreciated but also feeling that the type of feedback they get may always be corrective and focused on mistakes. It is easy for someone in this type of situation to become frustrated, unmotivated, and even discouraged to the point of no longer trying to do their best. Working in an environment that focuses on appreciative feedback is more motivating for workers, and it’s also a positive experience to witness others being appreciated and helps build team camaraderie.2

If you’re farming with a spouse or romantic partner, checking in regularly to make sure emotional needs are met is an important investment. If you find yourself feeling resentful or thinking, “I haven’t heard any gestures of appreciation sent my way,” also ask yourself when was the last time you expressed gratitude and appreciation. If the demands of the farm override the needs of the farmers, it is a sign that it’s a good time to slow down and check-in.

Fatigue, worry, pressure, and stress without the balance of rest, laughter, check-ins, and listening can create conditions where we take out frustrations on those with whom we work daily. One of the best ways to see how a relationship functions is to observe what happens under stressful conditions. What is the reaction when someone brings home the wrong part to repair the hay baler? How does each member of a couple behave when pulling a tractor out of the mud in the middle of a wet field? What is the tone of conversation at a farm meeting?

Time is the most valuable commodity on a family farm, yet, allocating specific time to appreciate all members of the farm team may be difficult. Despite the difficulty, making time will be a critical part of a successful relationship. The needs and personal feelings of the people we love the most in our lives often get ignored or overlooked, and relationships need nurturing.

Finding Ways to Say Thank You

Part of running a healthy farm is nurturing the relationships of the people who work and live there. Consider the following questions, and use the answers in a private moment of appreciation, or during your next farm meeting.3 Learn more appreciative feedback if you don’t know about it, and practice regularly.

  • What are three talents or skills that your team members contribute to the farm, family, and community that you appreciate? 4
  • What is the best part of your day?
  • In what ways do others help you on the farm?
  • How can you acknowledge your gratitude for the work and talents of your team?

If it’s a new concept for the farm team, it will take some effort and commitment to express and share personal feelings among the people who work on the farm. For family members, members of the team, farm employees, and all involved, each member affects the business in some way. When these contributions are recognized, the experience is even more rewarding, and when they are witnessed by others, they can act as a catalyst to motivate everyone.

Adapted with permission from Ron Hanson, “Expressing Appreciation Among Family Members Farming/Ranching Together,” Farm and Ranch Survival Kit 3 (Washington State University and Oregon State University): 8.

1 Algoe, S.B., Dwyer, P.C., Younge, A., Oveis, C. (2020) A new perspective on the social functions of emotions: Gratitude and the witnessing effect. Journal of Social Psychology, July: 119(1): 40-74. DOI: 10.1037/pspi0000202

2  Boyd, L., Shyka, P., & Forstadt, L. (2020). Appreciation Feedback. [Bulletin #4808]. University of Maine Cooperative Extension. extension.umaine.edu/publications/4808e/.

3 Forstadt, L. Successful Farm Team Meetings. [Bulletin 4802]. University of Maine Cooperative Extension (2024). extension.umaine.edu/publications/4802e/

4 Henderson, E., & North, K. (2011). Whole-Farm Planning—Revised. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

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