Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where do I go from here?

My family has been working behind my back at selling land to my sister and her husband to build a house. When I was told kind of 'through the grapevine' I was furious and confronted my dad about it. He denied it and said nothing was going on and if anything like that would ever happen I would be in the know. My sister then let it slip on the way to dog agility class that they were building a house on the farm the moment their house near Minneapolis sold. Well it sold and the other night the contractor my dad works for was over here talking to them about building a house.

I was irate. Why?

It has been my 'long term plan' to purchase the farm, in its entirety, from my dad when I was between 40 and 50. Even if I moved to Colorado, it would have only been short term (5-10 years) and I have always said I wanted to live on the farm, try to farm with cattle and sheep as my source of income (hundreds of commercial animals) and that the landscaping and lawn care business that I am currently doing would be a secondary income and could either do it 'for fun' when farming was allowing it, or hire someone to run it for me and work full time on the farm. (more so than I do now).

I've talked about this plan since before I graduated college to some extent (the living here and having it continue as a working farm part) and its been known to most of my friends and family I thought for at least the 7 years that I've lived here post college. When in discussion with my parents and/or sister they were all stunned and baffled that I wanted to remain here and farm. their exact words were " I had no idea you wanted to live here and farm".






My parents have told me that they are going to 'gift' my sister 10 acres and me 10 acres. What am I going to do with 10 acres? Granted that seems like a lot but our farmstead is on atleast 5 acres and then 5 acres of pasture? For 200 head of sheep and 100 head of cattle? I don't think that would work. 320 acres is the minimum I would be able to use wtih pastures, and field work, that I could sustain or even come close to providing for 50 cattle and 200 sheep, or 100 sheep and 75 cattle. I would have to plan on renting land to have 100 cattle and 200 sheep (just figures I'm throwing out, not defininte numbers, but numbers that I would need to keep alive in the industry and make some sort of income)

It is true that if my parents died in a car accident the farm is willed to both of us kids, each getting half. While i have no problem with that, I do have a problem with them BUYING the land prior to my parents death and thereby having me end up with only 160 acres, possibly as low as 120. Again a lot of land by most standards but to farm efficiently here I would need all the tillable acres and pasturable acres for both species of livestock.

Needless to say my goals of bovine and ovine producing will be more than likely numbered and I will have to decide between the two and more importantly decide if I should remain here or move away.

Its much easier to find a better paying job and have 20 sheep on a few acres anywhere else than here. It would be easier to meet people and meet the potential love of my life somewhere else. Really the only reason for staying to was to try and continue to farm this 5th generation Ramsay family farm. And with half the acreage possibly leaving my control, I wouldn't be able to do that.

I think what most hurts me is that they lied to my face about it. No one will give me a straight answer and everything in my future is now affected by this decision on THEIR part and leaving me out of the equation to just sit and wait.

On another note the dogs that my sister has that two years ago killed my goats by breaking out of their chain link kennel with a solid floor and roof (they chewed through the chain link) and then proceeded to climb over a 6 ft tall electrified fence to get into the goat pen and then make hamburger of goats was a breakign point with my family. I had made the decision to ask them to put their dogs down or never bring them back.

For anyone following this story most will know that they did not put them down, and have continuously brought them back to the farm breaking our agreement and putting all of my livestock at risk, time and time again. I know how most of you feel and appreciate the support but this is family and makes it terribly hard. If they would build on the pristine parcel of land that is coveted by all family members to build on (which is where they want to build naturally) they would be only 1/2 mile across a field to the sheep pasture fence....and their dogs are known to get out and leave for weeks at a time....something that makes me extremely nervous.

And yes it would be considered 'their land' and technically not be on the farm land but their dogs would nontheless be there again and be in sight of the sheep....its only a matter of time before they get out and if they come to the farm I have ever right to do what is necessary to protect my livestock.

So the terror of the saftey of the animals here (guineas, sheep, calves, my dogs, etc) and the lying to my face is most upsetting, hurtful and emotionally draining. So draining in fact that this weekend Steve Peterson (Barb's husband) actually got under my skin and I had to firmly and strernly offer him my opinion on what he was saying and made the entire day very stressful and awkward at the show since we were grooming together. In the end it was reconciled but it is so unlike me!

There is a lot more to it and after rereading this it seems as if I am making a huge deal out of nothing but it is in fact a huge deal. Its changing my future and goals and while that might be OK, had I kinown this 8 years ago I would have never came home and would have found somewhere else to live and work and play.

The best part is my sister grew up on the farm but never left the house except to get to her car. She never weeded the garden, mowed the lawn, planted trees, milked cows, did chores, fed the dog etc. Why would she want/need/desire to live on the farm or own any of the land? My dad has three sisters and none showed interest in coming back to the farm. Ever. Not even to build a house to live.

And while my sister is one of my best friends, as are my parents, it bothers me greatly about this situation and it makes me uncomfortable and of course the only one who seems to be on 'my side' of the equation. I don't like it and i feel quite hopeless.

I'm all about compromises but i can't be guaranteed that I can still rent or work the land that my sister is getting or buying. That makes it hard for down the road. And what happens if someday they cannot keep the land and it goes outside the family?? Not something I care to think about. My parents told me that they are doing it to make sure we are both taken care of. I know that my sister and her husband make 4x as much money as I do and are quite well off already, with them being around my age (29). If I ever made that much money in 5 years I would be happy! So I don't think they need any land to be 'taken care of'. But again, its just my side of the story and no matter how diplomatic and neutral I'm trying to make this story, I'm sure its not completely coming off that way.

I just am emotionally drained and am not really talking to my family, which is very difficult considering they all currently live 100 yards away in another house.

Where do I go from here?


Sharrie said...

You are right; from your side, this is a very unfair situation. Even as barely an acquaintance, I knew that you had great plans for the farm. No one likes to be on the wrong end of a power play. I hope there is a satisfactory resolution to your problem. My thoughts are with you.

Cynthia said...

I know we have talked about this many times Garrett, but sometimes the only way through dysfunctional family dynamic is to simply get out. I know how hard this rotten deal is hitting you and how much this hurts. Still, this is repetition: Your family has made it clear that they are going to do this again and again; maybe it's time to make a choice that takes you away into a newly independent life?

Just a thought my friend. Sending you much love and a hope for a clear resolution.

Carol B. said...

Families are complicated. Inheritance issues are complicated. Plans for the future based on factors you do not control... Fear of dogs killing your livestock. There is indeed an awful lot on your mind.

My family will never "gift me" with any amount of land. There is no land that I could buy on contract from my family. Where would you go if you left? And what would you do to make a living?

I think you should consider all of your options. Your current situation may not be ideal, but it does have some advantages that you may not find elsewhere.

Don't give up. There is a solution to be found somewhere.

Carol said...

Garrett...Family dynamics are really hard at times. Sometimes cutting the cord for a while helps, but that's not a solution for everyone. Maybe having a Plan B in case you need another option. Sometimes a "new start" on a life that's your own is the way to go. You may want to keep the five-generation farm in the family, but others who have the powers right now may not have the same passion. Yes, stuff like this is emotional exhausting. Time does heal a lot of things. Hang in there, guy.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Garrett, my heart sank when you finally shared what your "family troubles" are. I think I would be as devastated as you, and as torn about what to do. To give up a five-generation family farm is so very final and painful, and is a serious step that could be irreversible. Is there any way to MAKE your parents and your sister and BIL sit down for a family council? If so, I would lay it all out for them: "These are my goals, this is my long-range plan; this is why it is important to me. This is why I came back after college. I need to know in writing what I can bank on in terms of land, so I can make my decision to stay here and live my dream, or move on to live a new dream somewhere else." Do not take anyone's word for anything; insist on getting it in writing! Just say it keeps it clean and prevents misunderstanding or problems from forgetfulness.

Remember Jeremiah 29: 11:For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

You will be in my prayers!

dreameyce said...

*hugs* I'm sorry. You're too sweet a guy to have this drama. If only your family saw, and respected your life passion, and supported it. Such a shame, and a loss of a family heritage, at their hand.

On the plus, is in the end everything will work out for you, because you're a wonderful person, and good things find good people.

Kara said...


I am so sorry for your troubles and don't know what to say that others haven't already. I think it is so admirable that you want to keep your 5th generation farm going. Are any of your grandparents still alive that could offer a little moral support on that. I think you should sit your family down and/or write them a letter and share your vision of the farm with them and why it important, not only to you...but to all of your family heritage. Could your dad "gift" money to your sister to purchase land in the same area? Why is it so important to her? Is there more to it other than it is free? If if just about the money I bet you all could come to some other solution, especially if you let them know how important it is to you.

Karen Valley said...

One solution to the "dog" problem that would not make you the culprit for destroying said dogs should they entertain the thought of making your sheep into burger is to get a couple working LGD's to protect your flock. Yes, you would have barking at night, but I think you could sleep easier with barking at night than not knowing when and if more livestock destruction would ensue.

Owning even a modest amount of farmland outright is a gift if you can get beyond knowing how much work and dreams you've put into the family farm. Unfortunately there is always a favorite son/daughter. In my case it is my oldest brother.

Best of luck in your search to find the right answer for you. I am sure you know inside what that is just getting your mind to follow your gut that is sometimes difficult.

Becky Utecht said...

Garrett, I'm sorry you're dealing with family issues again.
Your sister's decision to build and your parents' decisions to sell and/or "gift" land are up to them. It's good that you shared your feelings, apparently they didn't know how you felt. I know this situation really sucks right now, but I pray that you will do whatever it takes to make your dreams and ambitions come true on your own. Your parents are younger than I am, so hopefully they will be around a long time.

stephen rouse said...

ugh! family. they can be such pricks. your sister sounds like a real bitch. i'm sorry you're going through this...I went through it with a half-sibling and an X 1/2 brother-in-law. They sure make life miserable for a period. Hopefully your parents will come to their senses. I can see no reason why they would want your sister to build there when she has NO interest in agriculture.

Gail V said...

Hi Garrett,
so sorry. . . it sounds like your parents might think that this is a great way to make sure both their kids stay close to them, along with future grandchildren. . . and that you'll put up with a lot to stay where you are. For that disrespect shown, I'm sorry.
I'm with Cynthia on thinking that some families just don't change, and if you can't work within their system, you may have to go out and start your own.
Also, though, I think you can take a long view-- maybe you go out and earn better money elsewhere and buy some of that farm. Or maybe you ask for a committment on what piece you'll someday get, in writing, and adjust your future plans.
Best wishes to you.

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