The Invasives Creep Up on Us

Every time I glanced at my flower bed; I saw them. Yet others didn’t.

An invasive flowering plant had gotten away from me. Very early in the season I pulled some out, but I was in a hurry and didn’t get them all. Short on time I let it go. I knew I should address the issue by setting time aside to free my flower garden of them, but I didn’t.

This morning as I was finally removing the invasive flower, I realized I had a very pretty lily that was almost snuffed out by the invasive. Thankfully it still has a few small blooms and was uncovered in time for the plant to regain its strength.

As I was pulling weeds and the overgrown invasive the wise words of a renowned farm succession expert rang in my head. Attorney John Baker of Iowa State Beginning Farmer Center, often remarked, “You have what you put up with.”

A simply yet profound statement of truth.

Farm Invasives

Not all of the invasives are in farm fields, hedgerows, or forests. They can be found in the financials, equipment, structures, employees, working relationships, family members and family dynamics, to name a few.

They are items that we “put up with,” avoid addressing or ignore. However, as with all invasives the issues grow bigger and out of control if left go.

Examples include:

1. Financials

It often starts unintentionally when savings or personal funds are tapped to pay the bills. Thinking next year, we’ll catch up and get back on track. Debt increases and the conversations around farm financials are tense.

It could be financials have never been a strong point but we’re too proud to ask for help.

2. Equipment

Farm equipment can present safety hazards. Unaddressed safety hazards are accidents waiting to happen. Accidents harm people, livestock, equipment and result in potential for legal action.

Time and dollars spent fixing farm equipment prevent down time when you most need the equipment, time spent in court or heaven forbid lifetime regret of loss of life. If the hazard cannot be fixed, it may be time to develop a plan to replace the equipment.

3. Structures

Farms often have a wide array of structures from historic to newer and the challenges are as varied as the buildings. It’s easy to let building issues go because they are lower on the project list. Be careful the issues don’t become safety hazards or prevent the building from functioning as it should to safely hold livestock, feed stuffs, or equipment.

4. People Issues

The messiest invasive of all are people issues. There may be communication challenges including personality struggles or conflict resolution issues. It may be a learned defensiveness or wall that’s been put up as the result of an abusive professional or personal relationship. There may be a toxic relationship among family members or employees that has gone unaddressed.

Remember you have what you put up with and it’s time to deal with the issues and set boundaries. Bad behavior is unacceptable behavior.

Removing the Invasives

The first step is acknowledging the issue(s) we have to admit there is a problem in order to deal with it.

Working together with others on the farm to address financials, equipment and structure problems will spread the burden and creative thinking among many people and often results in the best potential solutions. The best option for the farm may be the hardest to accept.

The best option may require transitioning farm enterprises to a more financially feasible enterprise for the farm. A piece of grandpa’s farm equipment may need to be replaced because it’s too dangerous and someone is going to get hurt. A farm building from the 1930’s may have outlived the remodels and need replaced. Working together the farm team can determine the best options for the farm.

The Root of the Problem

If people issues are the root of the problem, they need dealt with first. If inappropriate actions have been accepted in the past it will take time and patience to change.

Addressing issues one on one may be the best place to start. We may uncover someone dealing with personal issues/crises and the frustration from those are spilling over on the farm or vice versa. The person may not realize their words or actions are negatively impacting others and the farm.

Things may also be addressed in the group setting of a farm meeting. The best way to ensure all know behavior expectations is to provide meeting guidelines and follow them. Reminders may be required throughout the meeting until everyone gets used to the new protocol.

A prop may be used to ensure everyone is heard during the meeting. For example, if one person tends to dominate the meeting, pass around a small stress ball or other object and the person in possession of the item has the floor and the rest of us listen. Once they are done speaking the object is passed on to the next person. This also gives a voice to those who normally don’t speak up. Everyone listens to learn while others are speaking. The meeting facilitator or leader should remind people there are not any wrong answers and we should use our listening skills to learn other points of view. It will require practice to adjust but the method works.

The Beauty of an Invasive Free Farm

The best results occur when invasives are removed root and all. It’s also the most challenging method.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the immensity of the issues. Set aside time to focus on one invasive at a time. As everyone’s voices are heard and positive results seen we will be motivated to continue the process to address other farm challenges.

One step at a time we can get rid of invasives and renew farm vigor.

Picture of Darlene Livingston

Darlene Livingston

has served as the Executive Director of PA Farm Link for 13 years. Leading the organization’s farm succession education and facilitation programs, assisting with farmer and land databases, beginning farmer and farm stress work.

Darlene has been instrumental in bringing farm succession to the forefront in Pennsylvania. Through her leadership two International Farm Transition Network Coordinator trainings have been held in Pennsylvania along with continued education programs for ag professionals.

Born and raised on a diversified farm, Darlene has a lifetime of farm experience working with three generations on the farm.

If you'd like to learn more about PA Farm Link, the farm succession facilitation services or have questions about succession planning please call 717-705-2121 or email

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