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Be Well July Letter: The Role of Listening Communication on the Farm

Dear farming and earth-tending friends,

We are thinking of you during these hot and humid July days.  Hope you are finding some moments for rest, especially in the cool evening breeze.

Our theme this month is “Communication on the Farm”.  We offered several workshops on this topic over the winter and spaces filled early, which led us to conclude it’s an important topic for many of you.

In this month’s letter, we invite you to reflect on the role of listening and its importance in communication. The root of the word “communication” in Latin is communicare, which means to share, or to make common.  Arriving at shared meaning or understanding requires time and space to listen to one another’s needs and perspectives.  It’s not necessarily about agreeing but about being genuinely heard and received. With animals, crops, customers (maybe also kids or elderly relatives) demanding constant attention, it can be hard to create regular time to step into a quiet space to listen to another – and be heard.  This month we invite you to try a short exercise with someone you farm with called a Listening Partnership.  These can be done in person or virtually.

Listening Partnerships:  Listening Partnerships are where we listen with respect, warmth and interest to another, swapping an agreed amount of listening time, as little as 5 minutes. You can use Listening Partnerships to work regularly on the pressures and tensions of farming and family life.

Trading ‘listening time’ sounds simple, but quality listening may take practice. Our minds can be so active and busy that when others are talking, we hear words but are more tuned in to the stream of thoughts or judgements in our heads.  Yet, offering open hearted attention and fully receiving what is spoken in a listening partnership is the key to truly hearing one another. Many of us have experienced this kind of quality attention from a farm animal or pet.  If there aren’t any humans around, head out to the pasture and see for yourself!

If you’d like more info on how to set up a listening partnership, or may be seeking a listening partner, reach out to us.  We’d be more than happy to help explore possibilities together.  And if you’re seeking support with a specific communication challenge, some Northeast states have agricultural mediation programs which may offer assistance.  Here are a few links: https://www.nysamp.com and https://extension.umaine.edu/agriculture/agricultural-mediation

Be Well Project News

If you read our letter last month, you heard that we will be offering two winter retreat opportunities!  For those of you ready for an in-person experience, the Be Well Farming Project will be hosting a 3 day wellness retreat at Friendly Crossways Retreat Center in Harvard, Massachusettes on December 10-12th. For those who prefer to join from the comforts of home, we are also offering a virtual version of this retreat, to take place December 1st – 3rd.  More details about the programs will be upcoming.  We hope to see many of you either in person or in our virtual retreat setting.

In keeping with our theme, we will leave you with this quote:​

“Holy listening—to ‘listen’ another’s being into life, may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another ”  — Douglas V. Steere

Wishing you abundant life during this high point of summer.

Until next time, be well.

Violet, Anu, Jennifer, Daniel, Rachel and Leslie
The Be Well Farming Team

Violet Stone

Violet is the coordinator of the Reconnecting with Purpose project, which offers farm and food system educators and change makers a retreat space to explore challenges and renew a sense of inspiration and purpose in their work and lives. She is also a collaborator on the Be Well Farming Project. This project creates reflective spaces for farmers and food producers to connect meaningfully and explore strategies that can ameliorate challenges and bolster quality of life. Violet serves as the NY SARE Coordinator and can help farmers and educators navigate NESARE grant opportunities.
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