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  • Jennifer is a self proclaimed country girl born and raised in Northern California. After joining social media, Jenny met a farmer from North Dakota. She followed her heart all the way to the rural prairies of ND where she is now married to that farmer. Besides spending time with her farmer, Jenny can be found with a camera in hand capturing the world around her, loves the challenges of bringing culture to the North Dakota prairie through a variety of culinary creations, and using her interior design degree to flip their bachelor pad into a home. All of this and more can be found on her photography blog: jldphotographblog.com.
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Finding the Silver Lining

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎10-10-2014 04:29 PM

Often times those of us blogging about agriculture get criticized for continuing the stigma of “romanticizing” the farm life. The truth is, sometimes we do romanticize farm life. Want to know why we do it? We do it because if you don’t find that shiny silver lining in the small things in farm life… well, your life would be pretty darn miserable from time to time.

 

Let me tell you something… those of you who are far removed from the farm life, the rural life, the ranch life… It is hard. Sometimes living the farm life hits you square in the gut, right where it hurts. Sometimes things happen that are like an ice pick straight to the heart.

 

Bad things happen.  It rains when you don’t want it to, it doesn’t rain when you want it to. The wind blows 100 mph when you don’t want it to breaking and snapping corn stalks. Mother Nature is unpredictable and relentless. She can yield cruel and devastating consequences for farmers and ranchers alike. Crops burn up, get flooded, are ruined in hail storms. If you raise animals, calves can die, cows can become injured, predators can kill animals. It can break a farmer's heart to pieces to experience the loss.

 

Equipment breaks down and much like your car, it is costly to fix. Even worse, equipment that is necessary to harvest crops catches fires and burns to the ground in the field.  With rising prices of land, high feed costs, and operating costs on a continual rise, farmers extend their credit with the bank well beyond what they can ever pay back. Some may even be forced to file bankruptcy.

 

Across the entire nation, on a day to day basis, you are bound to find some farmer out there having the day from hell.

So, we do what anyone else does… We find the silver lining. We find comic relief. You know those things where sometimes all you can do is laugh because if you don’t laugh, you will cry..? We have those moments too.

So what is the silver lining…?

 

The silver living is realizing the intricate beauties of the wide open spaces all around us.

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The silver lining is continuing on a family legacy and teaching our children the value of hard work and perseverance.

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The silver lining is realizing how far you have come from when you started with nothing.

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The silver lining is remembering the hard times you’ve been through, how you weathered it through, and this too shall pass.

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For some, maybe the silver lining is the fact you’ve got a forever partner by your side that together you share the same work, hope, and dreams.

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It’s the memories of those silver lining moments that remain forever engraved upon on brains. It’s the passion we have for those silver lining moments that get us out of bed in the morning and give us strength to face another day.

 

There are so many silver linings to be found in life on the farm.

 

What is your silver lining? 

 

Flax Harvest

by Jennifer_Dewey ‎10-02-2014 04:35 PM - edited ‎10-02-2014 05:05 PM

Throughout the year I have been sharing all about our flax crop here at Agriculture.com.

 

The time finally came to harvest our flax. You may recall on the last update, we talked about how to tell if the flax seed is mature. Seed is produced in what is called a boll or small round capsule. A full boll can have up to 10 seeds but typically averages around six to eight. Every bloom that is produced will become a boll with seeds. As the flax matures, it will turn from a green color to a yellow color. The seeds inside the bolls start white and as they mature turn brownish yellow. Flax is ususally deemed fully mature when 90 percent of the bolls turn brown and the stems turn yellow. 

 

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We harvested our flax with a combine (or harvester) with a draper header. A draper header uses a soft canvas-style rolling platform belt (draper) to catch crop. The crop is conveyed on the belt from both ends of the header to the middle, where a third draper pushes it into the feeder house. Draper headers are an alternative to auger-style headers which typically use a large auger which feeds crop to the center where it will enter the combine’s feeder house.

 

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Draper headers have gained favor as a tool to harvest a wide range of crops over a variety of different terrains. I will say my husband and father-in-law are pretty sold on the versatility of this header. 

 

According to their various manufacturers, "they’re able to feed larger volumes of material evenly into combines, resulting in increased combine capacity and more acres harvested per day. And when the cut portion of the crop can be fed evenly into the combine, this also helps improve residue distribution, reduce grain losses and minimize wear and tear on belts and drivelines within the combine itself." 

 

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The flax yielded fairly well despite several growing challenges and some weather challenges. It was certainly exciting to bring a crop of the past back to the farm and I don't think any of us were more proud than Grandpa. At 88 years young, he delighted in seeing a crop he used to grow come back. I got the chance to sit in the tractor with him while he ran the grain cart as he told me stories about how he used to grow and harvest flax. 

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Flax is an important crop to North Dakota with nearly 95 percent of the nation's flax grown solely in the state. During recent years, the United States has been a net importer of flaxseed as the value and market for flaxseed as a healthy food continues to develop.  

 

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As research continues to support flaxseed as a healthy choice for heart health as well as reduced cancer risk, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues and if more farms become interested in bringing flax back. At present, the only flax breeding and genetics program in the U.S. is at the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station.  In fact, the program at NDSU is one of only three in the entire United States.

 

To read more about our season growing flax, visit these articles: 

 

 

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We Love Fear

by Jennifer_Dewey ‎09-24-2014 10:07 AM - edited ‎09-24-2014 10:14 AM

October is coming up and that means Halloween is right around the corner. Now I love Halloween. I love the pumpkins and the awesome decorations and the costumes. But you know what I don’t like? Being scared. I hate the fear that surrounds Halloween. I know some of you may enjoy walking around in a corn maze and re-enacting a scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But that ain’t for me. I like going into situations informed, knowing what could potentially happen. I don’t enjoy purposefully subjecting myself to being scared. And I am sure many of you don’t either.

 

So why on Earth is it any different when it comes to our food? Every single day in this country, we are bombarded with fear. It has become more and more apparent to me that sensationalism must sell. I mean how else are these people still making money hand over first? Celebrities across the board regularly use the most outlandish examples in order to feed this need for fear. AND PEOPLE EAT IT UP. Hook, line, and sinker. Need some examples?

 

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Dr. Oz recently has been all over the news, internet, and television talking about this “new” herbicide put out by Dow called Enlist Duo. His latest example involves an illustration of how spraying pesticides works. In the example, he uses feathers blown by a fan. This blog by Weed Control Freaks does a great job of addressing the fact that hey, when we spray pesticides, it is NOT AT ALL like spraying feathers. It is calculated, it is precise, and when presented with the facts. It isn’t something that needs to be scary at all.

 

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Jamie Oliver went on ABC two years ago and poured straight ammonia into ground beef and essentially told us “this is what your meat processor is doing”. We all know the story. From one sensationalized headline, close to 1,000 peoples lives were changed in an instant. They were laid off from their jobs and whole businesses were forced to close. And people are still cheering this as a win? Meat processing plants use ammonia hydroxide. It is a gas, not a liquid that is sometimes used in our foods in order to elevate the pH present. Elevating the pH does not allow bacteria to live and thrive on the surfaces of our food. In the meat industry, this step is called pathogen intervention. It’s one simple step our industry can take to DRAMATICALLY reduce harmful bacterias such as E. coli.

 

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The Food Babe is another popular online sensation who regularly uses fear to bring her followers and readers closer. One week it is that Starbucks is giving us cancer through our Pumpkin Spiced Lattes while another week it is that our microwave is slowly killing us. While places like Time magazine have come back at us about how our pumpkin spiced lattes are nothing to fear. Look up the “chemical makeup” of an egg or a banana and tell me if you can pronounce everything in there. Our food themselves are made up all sorts of different compounds.

 

The worst part about this whole thing is that the people we apparently trust are KNOWINGLY feeding us this fear. Recently Dr. Oz sat in front of a congressional panel, Senator Claire McCaskill “I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know its not true.” And Dr. Oz even ADMITS to lying. Even pop-culture outlets like Buzzfeed were reporting “Oz many times acknowledged products he told viewers to use are not scientifically supported and don’t have the research to be presented as fact.”

 

If you Google Food Babe scam, you will find DOZENS of articles calling out the Food Babe, who is a computer scientist by the way, about her regular fear instilling tactics all to make a buck off of her “army”. After the recent pumpkin spiced latte predicament, Kantha Shelke, a food scientist with a background in organic chemistry and spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists had this to say regarding the Food Babe, “This conversation about chemicals in food requires a certain amount of responsibility, which I think some of these elitist writers and bloggers and speakers have somehow forgotten. I think it’s very irresponsible to be ignorant to such a level as to lead others astray and tell them to eat chemical-free food. After all, water and salt are chemicals.”

 

I may not have a Dr. in front of my name, I don’t regularly get to appear on ABC, and I may not have the hundreds of thousands of followers that the Food Babe does. But I can type into Google something that I hear on the television or the radio and I can find out that spraying chemicals is not anything like blowing feathers with a fan. I can find out what exactly is in my pumpkin spiced latte. How come I can do this stuff but we continually let these Dr. Oz and Food Babes of our society get away with such irresponsible behavior?

 

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Now I know you may have be one to fall prey to these fears. I get it. I fully well know you are simply trying to do what is right and what is absolutely best for your family. But let me just put something out there. One statistic for you. 100 percent of people die. 100 percent. There will come a time and a day where we will all be gone. And let me tell you, it isn’t going to be because of my pumpkin spiced latte or because I cooked my entire life with my nonstick cookware.

 

Life is busy, it is complicated. We are bombarded with all these mixed messages about our diet and what’s healthy and what’s not healthy. But just in case no one has ever told you before.. it’s okay to once in a while cook food that comes from a box. It’s okay to enjoy your pumpkin spiced latte once in a while. It’s totally okay to use your microwave to heat your kids a meal because you’ve been at work all day long. IT IS OKAY. Moderation is the key to life. Not fear. Let’s not make our already complicated lives even more complicated by buying into this fear. Let’s not work ourselves to death by trying to avoid the next big scare. Let’s give up this fear addiction. That may mean staying off the internet, not engaging on social media for one day a week, or shutting off the television once in a while. Set yourself free of this fear that seems to plague our society. Let’s remind ourselves that moderation is okay. Setting ourselves free of this fear does one thing… It lets us enjoy the things in life that really matter.

Wheat Harvest in North Dakota

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎09-19-2014 11:28 AM

Since I shared the article several weeks ago about Why I Choose to Eat Gluten, my eyes have been opened to how truly vilified wheat has become. As I shared in that post, I believe as people living in a state that relies on wheat production, it is important we too become advocates for wheat and wheat products.

 

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In conclusion of wheat harvest, I will be sharing wheat related posts on my social media channels for the next week. I plan on using these images to share some fun facts about wheat., much like the one you see above. You can find these by following me at Prairie Californian on Facebook or finding my handle on Twitter, @PrairieCA all next week. I hope you will share these so that we can put a positive message behind the wheat we grow, instead of the message in books like Wheat Belly

 

Today I wanted to share some images from our wheat harvest. There is something truly magical about wheat. Spend the evening watching the sun go down over a wheat field as it dances in the wild and you will find yourself falling in love.

 

Some producers are still finishing up as we experienced rain delays for nearly three weeks. We finished our harvest a little less than two weeks ago. And we wouldn't have gotten done with such speed without the extra help we received from family and friends. Yields on our wheat were good, but the rain delays reduced the quality of our wheat crop. 

 

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A Flax Update: Growing

by Jennifer_Dewey ‎08-22-2014 02:32 PM - edited ‎10-02-2014 03:49 PM

So I shared a while back about how we are growing a new crop on the farm... a crop of the past! Flax! And I am sure you all remember when I shared about standing in the ocean... The ocean of flax blooms. In case you missed it, let me remind you of the beauty... 

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Last time we left off on the flax journey... we talked about why we grow flax, what flax is used for, and the history of flax grown across the globe. This update, I would like to talk about how flax grows. 

 

So how does flax grow? 

Flax is an annual plant that has one main stem. Flax usually grows to a height of about 24 to 36 inches with a tap root that can penetrate to 40 inches if growing conditions are favorable. Flax requires a 50 day vegetative period, 25 day flowering period, and about 35 days to mature. 

 

Flax is a self-pollinated crop. Individual flowers open the first few hours after sunrise on clear, warm days, and by noon usually the petals will close up. Most varieties will have blue petals but petals may also be different shades of white, purple, or even pink. Once the plants are done blooming, the blooms will fall off and bolls will form. 

 

Seed is produced in what is called a boll or small round capsule. A full boll can have up to 10 seeds but typically averages around six to eight. Every bloom that is produced will become a boll with seeds. As the flax matures, it will turn from a green color to a yellow color. The seeds inside the bolls start white and as they mature turn brownish yellow. Flax is ususally deemed fully mature when 90 percent of the bolls turn brown and the stems turn yellow. 

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Where Can Flax Be Grown?

Flax does best grown on the same type of land that grows wheat or barley. Poorly drained soils, drought soils, and soils with lots of erosion should be avoided for growing flax. Flax fits well into a small grains rotation and should not be planted more than a one in three year rotation.

 

The North Central area also has moderate summer temperatures and rainfall which is sufficient flax. Flax yields tend to decrease as precipitation diminishes. Adequate moisture and relatively cool temperatures, particularly during the period from flowering to maturity, seem to increase oil content and quality in flaxseed. 

 

Our flax is just starting to turn or ripen. The seeds are starting to turn color from white and the stems are starting to turn yellow. Here's what it looks like now! Our next update will be all about harvest! Stay tuned! 

 

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Just a Crop Update...

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎08-06-2014 02:31 PM

It's August. We should be combining wheat, but we aren't yet. We started the year out praying it stopped raining and now we've been praying for rain the last couple weeks. We finally got some, we got lucky. Sunflowers are just starting to bloom. It should be another week or so before they are full yellow. Corn is just set to pollinate, you can smell it. Soybeans have still got a long way to go...

 

It's just another year, farming. And this is just a crop update... At least the pictures are pretty, right? 

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Don't Forget How Far You've Come

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎07-30-2014 12:09 PM

Growing crops is a lot like life. We get so caught up in the NOW. We need rain, we don't need rain, we need sunshine, the crops look good, the crops look bad. 

 

We go look at them multiple times a week. Always checking, always tracking where they are right now. But once they get out of the ground and have started on a path towards maturity, we often forget how far they've come. We forget the little miracles that were once seeds, seedlings, and how much growth we've experienced in between. 

 

So today, in the spirit of celebrating where you are right now and where you are going... Don't forget to take a look back on how far you've come. The sometimes seemingly slow progress you've made towards a goal in your life is important. The sometimes endless struggle towards the finish of something in your life is important. 

 

I hope you look back feeling empowered and full of pride of the things you've accomplished. Much like these crops have grown and still have a long way to go, so do our lives. We are forever growing, changing, and maturing... But we've already come so far. 

 

Progress is important so enjoy the journey.

 

And once in a while, take a look back.

 

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Standing in the Ocean

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎07-23-2014 01:12 PM

Several weeks ago I wrote about how we are growing flax again on the farm. Flax is a crop that Grandpa used to grow. And he's been eagerly awaiting it to bloom. He keeps telling me when the flax blooms, I will have to go stand in the ocean. 

 

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And this week, I stood in the ocean. As we came over the hill to the field of flax, there was no denying it was blooming. You could see it from a mile away. And it literally did look like an ocean of blueish, purple. It was gorgeous. I stood in the field, my camera in my hand, soaking it all in. 

 

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The blooms are starting to cycle through and once they fall off, they form what is called bolls. They are little pods that contain the flax seeds. These bolls are what we will harvest when it comes time. 

 

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Up close, the blooms are gorgeous shade of purple-blue with such intricate detail. Morning is the best time to catch these beauties blooming as they close up in the evening or whenver there may be bad weather. We drove by the other evening and sure enough, no blooms. Field was green, not the ocean we had seen the previous morning. 

 

Crops never cease to amaze me. Farming never ceases to inspire me. It's a constant learning experience. And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

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Have any of you ever seen flax bloom? 

 

 

Crop Rotation on Our Farm

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎05-28-2014 11:07 AM

I am not sure if we are blessed or cursed on our farm here in North Dakota in that we plan a variety of crops. I think it intrigues people and even some farmers on the diversity we plant up here. North Dakota has a history of diverse crops; in fact, someone like my husband’s grandfather didn’t originally plant many of the crops we plant now. Crops of the past such as wheat, barley, oats, sunflowers, and flax have been slowly phased out for crops like corn and soybeans. But on our farm, we still continue some of the tried and true crops in our area. The reasons behind this are numerous and with this post, I hope to shed some light on those reasons.

 

On our farm we grow four different crops. And we grow these crops, honestly, because we have the opportunity to do so. Planting a variety of crops for our operation lowers our risk. What I mean by that is that in our area we can have a great short season and a bad long season or vice versa. In turn, we utilize a variety of short season AND long season crops. Our climate and seasons simply aren’t set up for a full season crop such as corn all the time.

 

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Out of the four crops we plant, two are broadleaf and two are grasses. We cycle them through in rotations from grass to broadleaf and repeat. A rotation like this also allows us to change modes of herbicide action so that we aren’t putting the same herbicides on the field time and time again.

 

The Four Crops We Plant

 

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Sunflowers

We plant sunflowers on our farm because it is a good warm season broadleaf that utilizes the leftover nitrogen in the soil from the previous corn crop. The flowers are planted in between the previous year’s corn rows. We are fortunate in our area to be able to plant sunflowers as many places around us are too wet or have a problem with blackbirds. Sunflowers are also the crop we’ve become known to produce, as my husband is well known as Sunflowerfarmer across social media.

 

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Wheat

Wheat is an original crop grown to this area and we choose to put it in our rotation because it is a great short season grass. We seed wheat into sunflower residue because as a short season crop, it does well after a full season crop like sunflowers. Sunflowers also tend to leave behind limited water so if you were to plant another full season crop like corn, it could run out of water later in the year. With a short season crop like wheat, we typically don’t have this problem.

 

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Soybeans

Soybeans are a great stable crop for our area. Soybeans allow us to maintain good weed control as well as are a pretty  tolerant crop. We need a crop that can be seeded into wheat residue that has the potential to be wet and soybeans allow us to seed in a wide range of planting dates.

 

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Corn

Corn, for the most part, is an opportunity crop in our area. If you can get quality yield and good prices, corn does very well for us. But you can only sustain so many acres in corn because it’s a hedge on risk. We plant our corn early, as corn is a full season crop, and on soybean ground because the soybeans leave us with low residue in the field.

 

I want to be sure I state that this is simply what works for our farm. It is by no means a rigid set of rules or guidelines for others in our area to farm. In fact, all farms differ. From year to year, for some farms, the crops may vary or crops may stay the same. Not all farms have the opportunity to do a rotation like this, some areas are simply not set up for certain crops. As you can tell from this post, crop choice and rotation hinges on many different factors. This year we are even going back to a crop of the past and planting some fields into flax.

 

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each farm to decide for themselves what is the most beneficial and profitable for their farm all while keeping all those various factors like soil, nutrients, water, residue, etc. in mind when picking crops to plant. Choosing crops and seed varieties are not a choice that any farmer takes lightly. It takes time, research, and even counsel sometimes to find what is best for your farm. And for some it takes trail and error before they figure out what works and what doesn’t. It is much like anything in life, finding a good balance is key. 

I worked my entire life alongside my dad, mom, and brother. Working with your family is hard. I can remember times when we ended up in all out family fights over things that happened at work. We spent entire evenings over the dinner table hashing out details about work. I can’t say that I have been the best employee when it comes to having my dad as my boss, but I have learned a few things along the way. Here are six tips for making working with your family a little bit easier.

 

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1. Keep Home at Home and Work at Work

Plain and simple. Don’t bring family drama into the “workplace” and don’t bring work drama into the “home”. Leave the family problems and issues at home and the work issues at home.  Leave the Mom, Dad, or Children cards at home. Discuss business issues when you are working and make time for family issues if necessary. An easy way to define these conversations is maybe pre-empting the conversation with “I’d like to have a business discussion” or “I need to talk with you about something regarding our business”. This also is a great way to give each other feedback about work and realize that when a member of your family is giving your feedback or maybe even a critique, he/she is in no way attacking you personally. But instead they are trying to make you a better businessperson because of it.

 

2. Give Praise.

In all parts of our life, taking criticism is tough, but taking it from the ones you love the most is the hardest. And it is okay to give criticism because afterall, it makes us all better. But if you are the one giving all the criticisms all the time, check yourself. Be sure that you are both praising as well as giving criticisms. You’d be surprised how a simple “hey, good job today” makes a world of difference.

 

3. Recognize Seasons of Hard Work

It’s understandable that sometimes agriculture seems like a never ending busy season, but carve out some time to designate a “slow season” or a time of the year when your family is allowed some lee-way. Maybe it’s to take a vacation or maybe it’s to just take a few days off.  Defining when those seasons are and when those seasons aren’t will save you lots of heartache when one of member of the family suddenly wants to take off and you have hard feelings because you are back at home working your butt off. It is important to realize that both hard work and making time to live and enjoy family are important. Draw the line wherever that is for you and your family. Write it down if you need to.

 

4. Understanding One Another’s Languages

Sometimes it may seem like working with your family, you are all speaking a different language. Maybe your brother isn’t much of a talker when he is “in the zone” working while your dad needs to constantly “talk it out”. Understanding how the members of your family work will create less tension and potential arguments when you are working in high stress situations. Feel free to sit down and talk over the Do’s and Don’ts for each family member. Try to make note of these things and work towards achieving them. Knowing what makes your family members tick and what makes for an enjoyable work environment can only benefit each and every person involved.

 

5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

Your family members aren’t mind readers. If there is something that is bothering you, make a decision to either air it out or let it go. Don’t harbor negative feelings. Make a decision on whether or not it’s worth fighting the battle otherwise get rid of it. I feel like sometimes working with your family, you are MORE likely to hold a long term grudge or resentment that could possible surface years down the line. Don’t let this happen. Before you take the issue to your family, think about the best way to address it. Pick a time AFTER or BEFORE work, try not to attack, but communicate it in the best way you can.

 

6. Be Patient.

A little bit of patience goes a long ways. Having worked with my family all my life, I’d say that I was a little more likely to fly off the handle with one of my family members versus a coworker. We are close with our family, we feel more comfortable with our family, but that doesn’t make it okay to lose our cool with our family. If it happens, apologize. If you are feeling like you are hitting your breaking point, take a deep breath, walk away. And come back when you are feeling a little more patient.

 

If there is one thing I’ve noticed out of all the years of working with my family, it is that we are harder on our family members than we are our hired help. We expect more out of our family and we also tend to be less appreciative of our family. Hired employees may come and go, but we will always have our family. Working with family absolutely has its negatives, but the positives are something few people out there can boast. . I am so fortunate to have been able to work alongside my parents and brother in our family owned and operated business. And now that I am married, I am also involved in a family owned and operated business on the farm. Embrace it and take the necessary steps to make your family working environment the best it can be.