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Give Thanks for Big, Happy (imperfect) Farm Families

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Written Monday, November 20, 1995  

Living and working together on the farm does not guarantee you one big, happy family. Especially when there are several generations involved. It takes work, according to an Ohio State Extension District specialist.

Margaret Griffiths of OSU Extension's Northwest District Office in Findlay, Ohio says that from great-grandparents down to the tiniest tot, conflicts arise over the time, money and energy that can be spent on family life and the family farm business.

Resources can be drained because members of each generation have different responsibilities and goals based on their place in the life cycle. And with changing times, there also are changes in social expectations.

For example, upper middle-aged parents may have to take care of an older member in declining health, while a younger couple has commitments to their children's school activities. Another spouse works off the farm. In the meantime, there's corn to plant, crops to spray or a tractor to fix when family issues tug at family members.

Sound familiar?

Being part of a multigenerational farm family does offer rewards to be thankful for, Griffiths says. "You see more of family members. You often become closer as a family. You are working with people who know you well."

Communication is the key to getting the best of both worlds. Today's families can easily become too busy to communicate, so Griffiths suggests farm members focus on the nuclear family and branch outward.

Also, farm members should have a life away from the farm in order to "recharge their batteries" and get a fresh perspective. Find supportive friends of the same generation who are going through the same things, Griffiths says.

"It helps to know you're not alone." she says.

Finally, keep a positive attitude when working so you can solve problems with other family members. Flexibility, tolerance of foibles and faults, and a sense of humor go a long way toward ensuring inter-generational harmony, she says.

"Everyone has to work it out differently." Griffiths says.


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