Academic journal article Family Relations

Family Ranching and Farming: A Consensus Management Model to Improve Family Functioning and Decrease Work Stress

Academic journal article Family Relations

Family Ranching and Farming: A Consensus Management Model to Improve Family Functioning and Decrease Work Stress

Article excerpt

Few businesses have as much family involvement in the day-to-day operation as intergenerational ranching and farming. Working side by side, family members have opportunities for shared dreams, satisfying communication, and intimacy. At the same time, working side by side presents challenges of high intrafamilial stress, strain, and conflict, especially when the family lacks skills in communication, problem solving, goal setting, conflict resolution, and strategic planning. The internal stress ranch families experience as a result of working together has contributed to a decline in the number of families staying together on the ranch (Rosenblatt, deMik, Anderson, & Johnson, 1985; Ward, 1987; Wilson, Marotz-Baden, & Holloway, 1991).

Family ranching is a business under siege. Since 1989, ranchers have come under increasing scrutiny by the U.S. House of Representatives, which has included raising grazing fees on public lands four times in appropriation bills (Grazing fees, 1993). Recent U.S. Senate debate and public hearings in the western states regarding whether to double or triple the per-unit grazing fees have focused attention on ranchers and their use of public lands (Grazing reform, 1993). Recent national television coverage by both the Audubon Society and CBS has publicized the question of whether ranchers' use of public lands is in the best public interest, given growing environmental concerns. CBS characterized the problem as "the new range wars" (Rather, 1993). These external threats could soon squeeze a number of ranch families out of business (Lewis, Volk, & Duncan, 1989).

The purpose of this pilot study was to test the hypothesis that ranch family members who communicate openly with one another to establish a shared vision and strategic plan can increase positive family functioning and decrease work stress. As a united system, perhaps family members can more effectively fend off internal and external threats to the family ranching business.

Rural ranch families who both want to face the external threats that contribute to their reported feelings of being under siege and to take appropriate proactive steps to transfer the labor, management, and land amicably to the next generation face a double problem. First, it is difficult for families to work together day after day without either encountering high levels of stress and strain or denying personal needs and wants (Freudenberger, Freedheim, & Kurtz, 1989; Jurich & Russell, 1987; Marotz-Baden, 1988; Rosenblatt & Albert, 1990; Wilson et al., 1991). Second, family life educators and Cooperative Extension specialists may lack experience working collaboratively with marriage and family therapists one-on-one with rural families to help families rebuild trust and cohesion. This article brings together therapy and education and creates a rural family Consensus Management Model that increases positive family functioning and capitalizes on ranch families' natural inclination toward self-sufficiency. It also enables them to create a structure and a process for successful and amiable labor, management, and land transfer across the generations.

Not all families are likely to be good candidates for the intervention. Families that are likely to benefit most from the Consensus Management Model are similar to those that would benefit most from traditional therapy (Fisch, Weakland, & Segal, 1982), that is, those that are hurting, have insight that their coping strategies are inadequate, or are in crisis from the high stress of interpersonal communication problems and the fear of losing their ranch or farm as a result. These families tend to be more willing to invest time and resources into some form of therapy or consulting. They tend to realize the urgency of seeking new alternatives to family and business problem solving. They recognize that continuing use their old coping strategies to solve problems is inadequate to prevent depressive feelings, worry, tension, stress, angry outbursts, fighting, and possible loss of the family farm or ranch. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.