Am I on the Right Path?

Our presenter Tim Wray discusses how you can know if you are on the right path.

Though Tim always had a lifelong dream of becoming a farmer he learned to reconcile this desire with the path he ended up taking (and loving) – becoming a pastor in small town Alberta. Tim talks about this journey and how the fruits of his labor were what helped him realize his path.


Am I on the Right Path?

Get the Conversation Going

Tim Wray encourages everyone to engage in meaningful conversations and learn how to get the conversation going. Conversation allows us to gain a sense of who we are, what we value, as well as how others view us and this clarity can lead to amazing potential between people.


Get the Conversation Going


What Matters in Small Towns

In a culture that is transient the connections between people can weaken a lot. In a simple project, Tim Wray shows us what matters in small towns –  sharing hopes, dreams and fears within the community helped Tim and other participants discover their shared values and helped rebuild the connections betweenthem.

The Young Adult Photovoice Project, led by Tim Wray, was funded in part by the Alberta Rural Development Network.  Their website has some great information about the Photovoice Project, as well as a Gallery of the photos and stories.  There is also a How-To Guide that’s worth checking out if you’re interested in doing a similar project in your community!


What Matters in Small Towns?


What it Means to be Human

In all relationships, it is important to have trust. Without trust, humanity cannot flourish, and creativity and productivity fails as well. To be human, is to allow those closest to us to be able to hurt us the most. Tim Wrayshares his thoughts on what is means to be human.

What it Means to be Human


Re-Thinking the Future of Agriculture

Vik Maraj, of Unstoppable Conversations, discusses how to improve the future of agriculture by letting go of the past.

Farmers can’t get out of their view about what limits them in fulfilling their future ambitions. Often they think that they are “on their own.” This view has been passed down by previous farm generations, however the limitations of generations past, no longer reflects the reality of today. In the past, farmers truly where on their own, left to battle it out each year for the hope a good yield, come harvest time. But today, farmers need to realize they are not on their own and to be able to re-imagine a new future of agriculture they must start reaching out to other farmers, organizations and networks.

The future of agriculture cannot improve by referencing the past; it requires us to bring forth a future that is entirely new.



Building the Future- Leaving the Past

Kevin Gangel, from Unstoppable Conversations, talks about how you can build the future you want, by questioning your old assumptions and then confronting those perceptions that have prevented you from identifying new possibilities.

Farmers today are facing huge challenges. Usually farmers, and people in general, look for “better solutions” to impending challenges, however Kevin Gangel recommends looking “in a better place”, instead.

Generally, when farmers look for “better solutions” to their problems they look at what they do and don’t have to help solve their problems. However, the place farmers should be looking at is in their own “thinking”. You have a thinking that gives you your actions. in other words, what you think is or is not possible. Therefore, if you change the way you think about something, it will enable you to choose a new future. In this way, you are building the future, while leaving the past and farmers (just like anyone else) could benefit hugely from taking this step forward.


Fixing Your Time Stress on the Family Farm

One really common thing among farm families is that they want more fun in their lives, and less work to do.

So, ask yourself, in the next 3 months what is the most important thing you need to do?

Elaine Froese shows a process you can take to answer this question. It’s simple, it makes sense and it will help you and your family fix the stress you have on the farm.

How Farm Families Can Reduce Stress on the Farm


The 4 Stages of Changes for Farm Families

Farmers often believe that by working hard, things will be OK. But life is not a straight line, and working harder and harder doesn’t mean things will always work out. So, what should you do?

Elaine Froese has taken the Hudson Institute‘s cycle of renewal modeland applied it to the lives of farm families.  Take a look at where you’re at in these 4 Stages of Change, in both your personal and farm business life.
The 4 Stages of Change Applied to Farm Families


Handling Differences Productively

Article by Gregorio Billikopf Encina
Wherever choices exist there is potential for disagreement. Such differences, when handled properly, can result in richer, more effective, creative solutions. But alas, it is difficult to consistently turn differences into opportunities. When disagreement is poorly dealt with, the outcome can be contention. Contention creates a sense of psychological distance between people, such as feelings of dislike, alienation, and disregard.

When faced with challenges, we tend to review possible alternatives and come up with the best solution given the data at hand. Unwanted options are discarded. While some decisions may take careful consideration, analysis and even agony, we solve others almost instinctively. Our best solution becomes our position or stance in the matter. Our needs, concerns and fears all play a part in coming up with such a position. Misunderstanding and dissent grow their ugly heads when our solution is not the same as theirs.

Several foes often combine to create contention.

  • Our first enemy is our natural need to want to explain our side first. After all, we reason, if they understood our perspective, they would come to the same conclusions we did.
  • Our second enemy is our ineffectiveness as listeners. Listening is much more than being quiet so we can have our turn.
  • Our third enemy is fear. Fear that we will not get our way. Fear of losing something we cherish. Fear we will be made to look foolish.
  • Our fourth enemy is the assumption that one of us has to lose if the other is going to win. That differences can only be solved competitively.

The good news is that there are simple and effective tools to spin positive solutions out of disagreements. But let not the simplicity of the concepts obscure the challenge of carrying them out consistently.



Tools for Improved Communication

Two principles have contributed so much to the productive handling of disagreements that it is difficult to read about the subject in popular or scholarly works without their mention. The first principle, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” was introduced by Steven Covey, inSeven Habits of Highly Effective People. If we encourage others to explain their side first, then they will be more apt to listen to ours.

Let me illustrate. As a researcher I sometimes need to interview farm personnel on their feelings about various subjects. It takes trust on the part of farmers to permit me to interview employees on what are often sensitive issues. While I have been quite successful, one day I came across a farm owner who was less than enthusiastic about my project. It was clear from his words and tone that I would not be interviewing anyone at this farm enterprise. I switched my focus to listening.

The farmer shared concerns on a number of troublesome issues. Eventually we parted amiably and half way to my vehicle the farmer yelled, “Go ahead!”

“Go ahead and what?” I inquired somewhat confused. To my surprise he retorted, “Go ahead and interview my workers.” I had long discarded any hope of talking to any of the personnel at this ranch, but the Covey principle was at work.

The second communication principle was introduced by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their seminal work, Getting to Yes. Simply stated, it is that people in disagreement focus on their positions when instead they should be focusing on their needs. By focusing on positions we tend to underscore our disagreements. When we concentrate on needs, we find we have more in common than what we had assumed. Ury and Fisher then went on to say that when we focus on needs we can attempt to satisfy the sum of both our needs and their needs.

When the light goes on we realize that it is not a zero sum game, where one person has to lose for the other to win. Nor is it necessary to solve disagreements with a lame compromise. Instead, often both parties can be winners.

Putting it all together

If we come right out and tell someone that we disagree, we are likely to alienate the person. On the other hand, if we put all our needs aside to focus on another person’s perspective, problems may also develop. The other party may think we have no needs and may then be taken aback when we introduce them all of a sudden.

In order to avoid such unproductive shock, I like the idea of saying something along these lines: “I see that we look at this issue from different perspectives. While I want to share my needs and views with you later, let me first focus on your thoughts and observations.” At this point we can put our needs aside, attempt to truly listen, and say: “So, help me understand what your concerns are regarding ….”

That is the easy part. The difficulty comes in fulfilling our resolution to really listen. We must resist the tendency to interrupt with objections no matter how unfounded some of the comments may seem. Nor can we, as we said earlier, fill our time composing the perfect comeback.

I distinctly remember one circumstance where I found myself conversing with a fellow, and while he spoke, telling him, “I understand.” I was suddenly struck that what I was doing was not effective listening. My interest was more in having him finish quickly so I could present my perspective, rather than in understanding him.

Instead of telling someone that we understand, we can be much more effective by revealing exactly what it is that we understand. It is necessary not only to comprehend, but for the other person to feel understood. Once both of us have laid out our concerns, we can then focus on finding a creative solution.

For more information on handling differences, see Conflict Management chapter under book.
Link Photo courtesy of Jesse Millan

For more from Gregorio check out his website Agricultural Labor Management

If you liked this article and want to learn more about how to handle differences effectively, check out Brady Wilson in “Conversation Skills: The Operating System”.