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Managing Complexity: Breakdowns

by Claudia Kenny
A farmer manages complexity such as unpredictability in biological systems, changing weather and climate patterns, and ever-changing economic systems.  When multiple stressors pile up, relationships often break down.  Break downs on farm can manifest in many different ways, from debt default to family or employee tension or conflicts. Our business and personal lives are profoundly impacted by break downs, and unresolved conflict which waste time and energy, sabotage business and personal relationships, and diminish the quality of life in our communities.
NYS Agricultural Mediation Program (NYSAMP) offers opportunities in New York State for farmers to call on support from communication experts when the breakdown is in human relationships. Farmers can borrow a NYSAMP mediator’s skill set to navigate in the same way they might borrow an accountant’s knowledge skills when they need to solve a financial problem.  Mediators help parties communicate what is most important and also listen, capacities that often shut down when we are in conflict or under a great deal of stress.
Looking back over the last few months, the majority requests to NYSAMP for mediation came for: farmer/landowner lease disputes, debt issues, farm transfers, and farmer neighbor disputes.  We also fielded requests with right-to-farm issues, interpersonal farm family conflicts, and agricultural business related organizational issues.  Referrals most often occur through an agricultural advocacy organization, followed closely by self-referrals from farmers.  Other requests came from a police officer, a local town official, and non-farming landowners.

Tractor stuck in the mud on a river.

Tractor stuck in the mud on a river.

Self determination is a core value in a mediation process, meaning that the people involved make their own decisions.  Mediation promotes understanding and often restores trust. Mediation outcomes are well informed and durable, since all the decisions are made by those directly involved.
An experienced, neutral mediator helps manage the discussion, and can draft written agreements.  Mediators are experts in communication skills, conflict management and negotiation.  Mediators do not give legal or other professional advice, nor do they decide or impose outcomes.
Mediation is a good fit for rural families and communities because it reflects the principles of independence, integrity, self determination, and a belief in working things out face-to-face.
NYSAMP is ready support the agricultural community with services available in every county in NYS.  NYSAMP offers free or low cost mediation to the agricultural community.  Call toll free 866-669-7267 for a free and confidential consultation.  We will ask you a few questions about the situation and help you decide if a mediator might be able to help.  For more info go to nysamp.com.


Tara Hammonds

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