Family Harmony vs. Family Conflicts

Dr. Ron Hanson

Back by popular demand, Dr. Ron Hanson, an agri-business professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, brought his honest and entertaining approach for dealing with family farm succession matters to the Beef Industry Convention, hosted by the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association.

Hanson, who teaches full-time at the University of Nebraska, counsels family farm operations in his spare time.

He shared his valuable insight during his presentation on Multi-Generation Farm Family Beef Cattle Operations: Family Harmony vs. Family Conflicts.

So why can multi-generation farming work so well in some families while others have to struggle?

In his 32 years of counseling, Hanson said he can trace every farm family failure (these families are no longer farming today) to one of seven mistakes.

And these failures between family members, he said, did not result from production failures or financial troubles, but the inability of the family members to effectively communicate and work together in a team effort approach to their farming business.

  1. Let a father-adult son or father-adult daughter farming relationship turn into a parent-child relationship.
  2. Family members “gossip” about each other rather than talking to each other to resolve their differences.
  3. Family members carry a “personal grudge” against each other.
  4. Simple family (or employee) disagreements turn into family fights. Arguments go beyond the boiling point and tempers now take over.
  5. Family members as well as employees in the farm’s work force are not able to have open and honest discussions. This failure to communicate effectively with other family members and/or employees only invites a farming business failure.
  6. Family members fail to set goals for both the family and the farm business.
  7. Family members in the farm’s work force are simply not willing to get along with each other.

Dr. Hanson has allowed the OCFA to post a handout of his presentation on its web site at

Based in Chatham, Ontario, Blair Andrews is a freelance journalist, specializing in agricultural reporting. After graduating with a degree in Radio and Television Arts from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in 1984, Blair launched a radio career that spanned three decades. The highlight was the 11 spent at the Ontario AgRadio Network, where Blair established his farm news reporting credentials as the “voice” of the Network’s Agri-News Update. Blair was honoured to receive several Tom Leach Awards, presented by the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation, for excellence in farm radio reporting.

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Posted in Farm Succession Planning, Livestock
One comment on “Family Harmony vs. Family Conflicts
  1. A Nielsen says:

    It is so important when farming with family to have very open communication and expectations. Good post.

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