Hosted by members of the University of Minnesota Extension Beef and Dairy Teams, The Moos Room discusses relevant topics to help beef and dairy producers be more successful. The information is evidence-based and presented as an informal conversation between the hosts and guests.
Emily: Welcome everybody to The Moos Room. The OG3 is here, and we are joined by a special guest today. A repeat guest, Krishona Martinson is here again today. Hey, Krishona.
Krishona Martinson: Hey, thanks for having me. Good to be back.
Emily: We are excited to have you back. If you missed the last episode Krishona was on, which Joe is going to have to look up which episode number that is for me.
Joe: Episode 40.
Emily: Episode 40. Wow. It's been a while. Krishona is also with the University of Minnesota Extension. She serves as a program leader for the Livestock team and is also our equine specialist. Because Krishona has been on the show before, she has already been asked the super secret questions. Joe and Brad tried really hard to hope that I had forgotten about that so that we could ask her again so they could pad some of their numbers for certain breeds. If you know you know.
Because she's been on before, we already know her favorite breeds of cattle. I decided we're going to ask her a different super secret question one we have never asked on this show. Highly likely we will never ask it on this show again but due to Krishona's specialty, which I mentioned she was an equine specialist for Extension. Krishona, what's your favorite breed of horses?
Krishona: Emily, I just knew. I'm going to go with the majority and what I personally have and just say Quarter Horses.
Emily: They're good. I don't know much about horses, but I've met a lot of Quarter Horses in my life and they seem very nice.
Krishona: [unintelligible 00:01:51] can really go wrong.
Emily: They seem like a standard issue horse.
Emily: If you're looking for a horse that does horse things and does them well get a Quarter Horse.
Krishona: They are the Hereford and the Holstein breed of horses.
Joe: See recap, that Hereford would've been the previous correct answer.
Brad: The only problem with Quarter Horses is they're not as cute as jerseys therefore, they can't be the best comparison for a jersey because they're just not as cute.
Emily: I wonder who the jerseys of the equine world are.
Krishona: Probably the ponies because they're so cute. They're little. They got big eyes. There you go.
Emily: They're curious. They get into trouble.
Emily: We're not going to turn this into a horse podcast.
Joe: Ouch, that was like a dig.
Krishona: No, we already got those. We're good.
Emily: We are The Moos Room, we're not the nay room, right? I don't know.
Joe: That's a great tagline.
Emily: [laughs] We're not the nay room.
Brad: Put that on the button bar.
Emily: Look forward to Krishona's new podcast, the nay room coming soon. All right. Gang's all here, OG3, Krishona who we're always happy to have on the show and to hang out with. I'll be the first to admit today's conversation is not going to be the easiest conversation we've ever had on this show, but I will say it's probably going to be one of the most important conversations we've ever had. We're going to discuss a topic not a lot of people really like to think about, but it is important to think about and we're going to hear why it's important.
That is end-of-life planning. Especially for farmers, a loved one dies, your husband, your spouse, your sibling, your partner, whoever that's involved in the farm. There's a lot of stuff that happens on the back end of that just with ownership and paperwork and insurance and all sorts of things. Although it's not the most fun topic to discuss, it's important to think about this stuff and to do some of this end-of-life planning because if you don't, you can be caught in a really hard spot. It's similar to what we talk about with general farm transition planning.
It ties in with that. Also, just general personal finances and all of those things. We did bring Krishona in today to talk about this topic and I will say, this was Krishona's idea to do this topic and we jumped at the opportunity. We were really glad that she asked us and that we're getting to dive into this side of things today. Krishona, I'll maybe let you just explain a little bit more of why you're here to talk about this today.
Krishona: This is not a story that ends well. Although, there's really not nothing good that came out of this situation, but maybe having other people be prepared is helpful and that's maybe the good. My husband did pass away very unexpectedly and from something we never envisioned. I'm in my mid-40s. He was in his mid-40s. We were very healthy. We had two teenage children that showed horses and showed Hereford cattle, right, Brad, and were active in 4H and school and sports and all the things. He was a full-time farmer.
He mostly sold hay to the local horse community. We also had a herd of about 15 cow-calf pairs, some registered owned by my daughter, some commercial. We sold all of our meat directly to our community. Really, the cattle went into the processes, they came home in boxes and went across the street. December 1st, 2020 our world was completely upended when he went in to have his gallbladder removed and came out with a diagnosis of terminal liver cancer with zero really no warning signs. What we have learned is that, when you finally see the warning signs of liver cancer, it's too late.
He was beyond the ability to have surgery or a transplant because it had taken, it was just too large in scope. My husband to this day has still never spent a day in the hospital. He just wasn't a person that was ever sick. At first, they gave him 18 months, and we thought, "Okay," and he actually passed away within 5 months. There was nothing good that came out of it. I don't want to lessen anyone else's. I'm not the first person this has happened to. I wish I would be the last but that's probably not how the world works. You guys, we had nothing prepared.
When you're in your mid-40s and you're perfectly healthy or you think you're perfectly healthy like we were, we always said we needed two and a half people in our marriage. We needed two and a half people to manage all of the things. I had a job that was-- Our jobs are demanding. He was farming and he always said he was a 1.5 person farmer that was a 1.0 farmer. It's just how it was. I thought what good can come out of this? That is why I wanted just to share a few things that we learned, and some of them you just have to laugh about because that's just how it is.
Emily: Well, thanks Krishona for sharing a little bit about why you're here today. Again, I just want to reiterate that we're really glad that you chose The Moos Room to come and talk to. Again, like I said, it's not a fun topic but I am looking forward to our conversation today and like you said, can hopefully save somebody else down the road from some of the things you had to deal with and go through and figure out on your own. I know you had some key points you want to hit. What's the first thing out of the gate for you as we think about this topic?
Krishona: I have a top 10 things I wish I would've known or I wish we would've prepared. The first thing is have difficult conversations before difficult situations because when you're married you say, "Oh, if something happens to me your, life is going to be hard because of X, Y, Z, or things are going to change because of X, Y, Z." When you're healthy and young you don't really think through that. We were having to have conversations about worst-case scenario when the worst-case scenario was actually happening and it was overwhelming.
For example, my husband was a typical farmer. He had, and I will say important items to him, crap to me. I don't know, he had stuff everywhere. Rental farms, our farm, land we owned, things everywhere. We really had to think about, "Okay, what do I keep? What gets sold?" There was enough items where we had to have an auction. My husband, I think, had bought almost everything at an auction. He loved auctions.
In fact, the office that we shared that I took over, during COVID and now post COVID, I still can see all of his little online auction sites and all of his passwords and his bid number for all of those online sites. He helps me said, "Okay. This is who I want to have my auction and this is why." When you know that's going to actually happen, it was a horrible conversation to have, what to sell, what to keep. He had a ton of haying equipment. In fact, he had a brand new Discbine and a brand new small-- Well, a two-year-old small square baler and a lot of John Deere equipment. Maybe that should be your other secret question. If you really want to get people up in arms, you could have some equipment.
Emily: Ooh, yes, what color tractors? Ooh, we'll add that to the list.
Krishona: The other thing, our children were 16 and 17. Personally, I didn't want my children to know our business at that age, but they had to because you can only have these conversations in private so much, especially when they're older. All of those difficult conversations we were having when the worst-case scenario was unfolding and I wish we would've had them before. It was just so stressful.
Emily: That sounds very stressful and such a difficult situation when you're already in a process of starting to grieve and trying to figure this out and so have the difficult conversations before difficult situations. I really like that. I think that's a great piece of advice for a lot of different areas of life.
Joe: You said that your kids were fairly young teenagers and you were hoping to keep them out of the business. Has that mindset changed now? Would you have wanted them to know more earlier now that this has happened?
Krishona: That's a really good question. I didn't want to burden them with that because they were already having so much stress as well. When you are also trying to set your kids up for future success like my youngest daughter owns a small herd of registered cattle. Especially when we knew he was going into hospice, she was rapid-fire. "Do we have to sell the farm? Do we have to sell the land? Do we have to sell the cattle? Do we have to sell the trucks? Do we have to sell the trailers?" Fortunately, we were in a position where we didn't have to sell those things. You could physically see the relief in her face because she was already having to deal with her dad part of it. In some ways, yes. My children own a horse. They own cattle.
They think they own trucks and trailers, which they don't by the way. [laughs] I think it just depends. Also, this is a good transition. To Emily, you asked what was next. You guys, we had none of our paperwork in order. When I mean paperwork, we did not have a will. I will say through a horse friend that I know who's an attorney, she put me into contact with an attorney that does estates.
We had to do a will and it was finalized just weeks before he passed away. That was really, really important when it came to taxes and other logistics. In some regards, the kids-- My parents still won't share with me what's in the will, and I don't care that is their business. Our kids, because they were young and they were losing a parent, they had to know how things were going to shake out.
I'm still not completely comfortable with that. That was the reality I was in. Joe, I don't really know how to answer that question. I wish they didn't have to be, but at least they know how things are shaking out a little bit. I think it gave them a little bit of comfort to know. When you lose a parent, if you also had to lose your horse, your cow, the place you live, I think that would've just been too much.
Because so far they're doing well as can be expected. I think knowing some of those details in my particular situation made that a little easier for them. Along with the will, luckily because we owned a farm and just some property, we were already as joint tenants. That's good. If you own property with somebody, I'm not a lawyer at all, but you need to make sure that you're both listed.
We had to go in and make sure when our kids started kindergarten, I'm fortunate that we took out life insurance but I had to go in and make sure that everything was-- I guess I didn't even know where half my passwords were to some of that stuff. Finding passwords, looking at insurance, medical insurance, vehicle insurance, farm insurance, all of those things, it was scattered, but it wasn't all in one place and it wasn't organized. Just have your paperwork in order so that when the worst-case scenario unfolds, you're also not scrambling to find or figure out those kinds of things.
Joe: I feel like in today's day and age, I physically just got a gut wrench of where is all my stuff and where is my passwords? How would anyone ever know how to get access? I couldn't tell you. If something happened to me today, I don't think half my stuff would be accessible. That's hitting a little close to home there.
Krishona: Well, and even putting key documents, we've always had a safety deposit box. Just a little one at our bank. My sister-in-law and then a close friend, and my oldest daughter, she's in college now. She's more adult. They know where the key is. They know how to access it. They're on the signature card. You can't just get in. All of the key paperwork is in there.
At least now key people know where to find it. Even in the will, you can't let a college kid or a senior in high school inherit a farm. My God, that would just not go well. I've even had to approach other friends, good friends that we show cattle with, "You have to take the younger one, but you need to commit to take her till she's 30." My older daughter are good friends that have horses because she's not into the cattle.
She's really into the horses. The same thing. I've had to make arrangements that okay, "I know at 18 they're technically adults, but they are not. They're not." I know I've had to identify a family member and then also friends that have distinct cattle experience and distinct horse experience because an 18-year-old kid cannot inherit a herd of 15 cow-calf pairs. Even though that's not that many, there are daily decisions that need to be made and expenses that need to be covered that a kid, even if they're involved, they don't grasp yet at that age.
Emily: I think that's a really important piece of, like you said, putting those other pieces in place, especially if you have kids having that all in order. I do want to go back quickly to what you said just a little bit ago about it maybe was hard having your kids know everything that they know, but also probably gives them some peace of mind if worst-case scenario comes back.
They have that anchor that that's something that they can be tied to, that they know is taken care of and won't put them in some financial or legal issue. I think that's all really important. I appreciate that you're adding in that perspective of what to do if you have kids and what those considerations are. Of course, your kids are teenagers, so considerations would be different for younger kids.
Krishona: I think especially when both of your kids have expressed an interest to have. We don't have the 1,000-acre farm. We have a traditional hobby farm. It's in an area where if it would be sold, it's highly unlikely you would ever be able to get it back. Knowing that you want to protect your kids and the property that you've worked your tail off to get and to make it how you want, and you just don't want that to poof go away one day and then not have your children be able to continue whatever legacy that farm or that hobby farm provides. Really along those same lines, my third point is, you guys, I had really no idea about my medical insurance. I knew I had good medical insurance. I didn't know the details. The biggest thing is I had never heard of co-insurance and I still don't understand it.
Bradley just gave a little hmm face. How co-insurance is, my medical plan for example has a co-pay, $25 for a normal office visit, $50 for a specialist, $100 for ER. Then you pay up to $4,000. That's my cap. Well, co-insurance, how it was explained to me is during a major medical event, co-insurance puts more payment onto the family and it makes sure that you reach that $4,000, so the hospitals pay less.
To me, that seems illegal because during a major medical, once you want the most support. I guess that's logical. If you go into our university system, and again, we have exceptional medical insurance. I'm not complaining at all. I'm just saying it was surprising to me. We'd have the specialist at the oncology was $50, $50, and all of a sudden be $682. It'd be random because that is their way of making sure you reach that $4,000 limit. Now, on the flip side, my husband started out with immunotherapy. His treatments were $98,000 and I had a $50 copay. Now, I don't know what insurance actually paid. We're talking a million dollars in just immunotherapy. Then when that didn't work, chemotherapy, which was horrible and also didn't work, and you still have a 4,000 cap, but getting those surprise bills for $682 was a little surprising. Then when you call the number, they're like, "Well, that's your co-insurance." They say it like everybody knows what that is, and I did not know what that is.
Again, not that anyone has extra time, but there's just certain things that you might want to look into the whole co-insurance thing. I also had never used FMLA, so I was pleasantly surprised with that. Also, just some other benefits that we have as faculty members with short-term paid leave that we pay into. Because my husband, our university's fiscal year starts July 1, it was bad the whole time, but he was put into hospice in May. I had May and June covered and then, of course, our fiscal year started over and so does your insurance. That was a huge benefit to me.
I was able to take leave to organize. After he passed away, there's all of that stuff, get the auction done and get that all done before the kids started back at school in the fall. There's just so many moving pieces and at that time you just have to be so careful of your financial risk because you don't know how things are going to play out. It all worked out well, but I'm telling you, look into co-insurance if you have it because I was surprised.
Emily: I have never heard of co-insurance and now I'm like, "I need to look that up." That's a very good tip. I think that's a good point, Krishona. I think most of us know the basics of our insurance, what my deductibles are, what my copays are, et cetera, but what about those longer-term care things, those expensive therapies. I know you mentioned Chad also went into hospice and I know there's certain insurance considerations for that type of care as well. It can seem so hard to think about that stuff and dig into that stuff beforehand, but I think that's a good point just asking a few questions, learning a little more.
You don't need to know the ins and outs of all of your insurance because that would take a lifetime to learn, to figure out. Just knowing a little more of that. Again, the difficult conversations before the difficult situations. Let's do some of this difficult fact-finding so that when we need those facts, we have them and there's not that added stress of trying to figure it out as you're doing it.
Krishona: I guess going in, Emily, to the fourth point, I think like every farmer, Chad freaking loved trucks and trailers. I don't know why. You guys, our friend Mike calls me the fleet manager. He is not wrong. I never cared. I didn't care if I owned a truck or a trailer, although I was a little ticked that my big horse trailer was in his name although I had made every payment because he handled all of that. There was 16 titled things, they were all in his name. Luckily, I'm in Wright County. Buffalo has a new government center and they actually have a lovely DMV. I got to know one lady very well because you can only be there for one hour.
When you have 16 things, it was four appointments and you have to have a death certificate and the titles. Luckily, before he passed away, he's like, "Here's the deal, it's a mess." There were lien cards not stapled to titles, lien release cards, all of those things. Then there was a Bobcat trailer that was a horseman, but it was abbreviated horse. Well, I have horse trailers so that was just never my job. That was never my concern. My fourth thing is manage your fleet. Know what trucks, know what trailers. Some of them are farm trucks.
You guys should really do a podcast on legendary farm trucks because we're talking the farm trucks took me probably two days to clean out and go through and multiple detailings. Oh yes, Joe's eyes got big. We're talking paperwork from 2014 that was unearthed. All of his handwritten in all of his crop notes, all of that stuff was in there. You had to go through piece by piece.
You guys, I had to literally half the time I was swearing at him and the other half I was laughing. Then you'd cry because you were like, "What the hell?" Manage your fleet. We only sold two items because my kids have a very close connection to the farm trucks. Why? One has a 20-mile radius is all the further it dare goes. They're just very connect to his things.
Joe: It took me about two days to clean up my vet truck when I left practice. I'm not going to lie, it was rough. That also didn't come with all the emotion that goes through piecing through each little thing that you're finding. I find that's the stuff that gets me the most when I'm dealing with someone that I've lost is when I go through all that little stuff that seems somewhat insignificant. You range the whole range of emotions from why do you have this to now I'm crying because I knew it was important to you. I can't imagine trying to do that.
In that situation, the person that you most want to have with you is the person that's gone. How did the kids manage that? I feel like that would've been even worse thinking back to my childhood, if I had had to do that for my father, I would've been a wreck.
Krishona: I didn't make them do that. I did a lot of that just on my own. You have to go through it. I think because the trucks were still here, they were okay with that. My daughter just had her senior pictures taken. It's funny, my husband was always like, "I don't ever want a truck in a senior picture because I think that it's boastful to have vehicles in senior pictures." Well, his 99 Dodge is in her senior pictures. It was so important to her. I got the vehicle's detail. It's all good, but I literally am still managing nine titled trucks and trailers, which is ridiculous, but what am I going to do?
Emily: Like you said before, they're your daughter's farm trucks and trailers in their minds. I will say I did see a sneak peek of the senior picture with the 99 Dodge. It does look great.
Krishona: It does.
Emily: Beautiful photos. I don't think she's boasting.
Krishona: I know. The whole title. A lot of farms, you have trucks and trailers in, you buy these trucks and you don't ever sell them, so they just accumulate. The other thing that I was not prepared for is the fifth point is I have the land of 10,000 rental contracts. When I had to go to the farm service agency and you guys were smart. We know about this stuff. I have a crop background, but my husband was dealing with 27 landowners in 29 parcels at the farm service agency.
Emily: That is so much.
Krishona: It is so much.
Emily: Oh, man.
Krishona: It's a reflection of the fact that we live on the rural, urban fringe. Small pieces, big pieces farms. Farms he was farming with the last two dairy farmers that are in my community. The world is small. My daughter won a Hereford heifer through the MYBEP program, Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program. The family that donated it, their daughter actually is the manager at our farm service agency. She knew what was up. We set an appointment. I had to do multiple appointments, but they were so lovely. They knew the situation, they had everything ready, they were so kind, but it took hours.
Because we were keeping the animals, some farms are retained, some farms are transferred to the dairy farmer that my husband already farmed with, some we let go. It was so many. Then you think, "Oh, okay, we'll get through this." Obviously, we retained the land that we own. I retained two farms and then our cow pasture, which Joe has been to. Then also, there's rental contracts through the co-op. The co-op, and again, they have been wonderful, but they kept saying, "You have a rented fuel barrel." I said, "No, I'm looking at the three fuel barrels that he has with dyed diesel." They're like, "No, you have a rented fuel barrel."
I'm out there walking and I look behind the big grain bins. Of course, one is a dryer. It's a big LP tank. That is the rental fuel barrel. It took six months to figure out that it was an LP tank and not a fuel barrel, which I'm thinking dyed fuel when it's really LP for drying corn. Just all of that stuff that I'd never had to deal with. Also at the co-op, he had a diet fuel account, an agronomy account, and then the LP account. They kept saying, "You have three accounts." I'm like, "He's one person. How can he have three accounts? He did. It's all good. You figure it out. Again, everybody has been wonderful. It took so much time to sort through all of that stuff.
Emily: I wonder, Krishona, for those things like all the co-op accounts and the rental contracts, and I will say this is an important reminder, I believe we've said it on the show before, make friends with your county FSA office.
Emily: Be nice to them. Bring them cookies. It's important because because when you need their help, you really need their help. It sounds like they were a great help to you, Krishona. I'm just wondering, before Chad passed away, were you at least able to know, "Okay, these are the places-- This is the co-op where the accounts are." Was there some sort of organization and arrangement of stuff that you were able to get done with Chad's help is what I'm asking.
Krishona: Because Chad is a typical farmer and he needs a ride, he needed a ride literally every place he went, at least I know where all of the fields were. When he went on hospice, because the transition from "Oh, we think you're a very healthy person, we think we'll be able to keep your alive for 18 months to 2 years." The transition from "Oh, you have two weeks to live," was literally overnight, like one day. Then it went into rapid mode. We had a meeting with the two farmers that I-- Even though I retained the rental ownership, I crop share with the farmers and they are wonderful.
They're our friends. Because my husband did a lot of hay, it's a lot of valuable ground because a lot of it was newer seeding. It had long-term value with that longer-term investment. There was one cornfield that got overlooked, I will tell you. We all had a mini meltdown when we saw more corn and we thought we're done but it is what it is. We did have a little bit of time. You know when you have to look at the map at the Farm Service Agency, sometimes you can't really get a perspective. I would be like, "Where the heck? I have no idea where this is. It would take 15 minutes of, okay, this crossroad and this crossroad and this, but this section belongs to boundaries."
It just took hours. Emily, my next point was become friends with your Farm Service Agency but we've already covered that and it sounds like you guys are already into that.
Emily: We've talked previously about the hours you spent with them and how helpful they were and that 27 is a lot. That's a lot.
Krishona: It was so many.
Emily: Grateful for our FSA agents for sure.
Joe: There's a lot. I think that's the key. It's been fairly overwhelming how much stuff, how much land, how many different people to deal with. Maybe this is a pretty invasive question. Did Chad ever get to a point where he was like enough. I don't want to talk about this anymore. It's just too much. I want to spend time with the kids and not really do anything else? Did you have to take breaks? Was it just at a point where he was like, "I'm just done? I don't want to deal with this anymore."
Krishona: Yes, I think those last two weeks was like that. I think he also wanted to make sure that we were as set up as well as we could be. He had a very old skid loader. He did everything with that. In the last two weeks, he purchased a new skid loader that he knew that we could operate. It was just a few things like that. Otherwise, it was just like, there was so much to do, you almost couldn't do that.
Emily: It is a lot. Again, that's why we're having this conversation today because if there's even the tiniest percentage of this workload that we can start working on with some of these things now I think it can just save a lot of stress, and some of that precious time that you never have enough of in these situations to really prepare you for that and hopefully keep you out of the FSA office for too long.
Krishona: The one thing my next point is have a grasp on your financials. That was one thing we were pretty good at and honestly because he had to take out a loan to operate, so we had all of our assets and liabilities. We were all really good with that. We had a spreadsheet. In our jobs, we have to be computer savvy. Although my husband could go on 17 online auction sites, he could not run an Excel spreadsheet. That was my job. I was involved in prepping the taxes for the accountant. At least I had a grasp on that. Again, I am so thankful that we're in an okay position financially because when our kids started kindergarten, we took out life insurance.
Our goal was, "We have enough life insurance that we can pay off all of our debt.' I thought, "If you pay off all of your debt, you can really live well." What I failed to recognize is that that's only a piece of the puzzle. Because my husband sold hay to a lot of horse clients, I don't know if you guys have a big IRS following but he did a significant amount of money, sales, and cash. He had one person that came and got two round bills every single week and gave him two $100 bills year-round for many, many years. Having that cash and also he contributed significantly to our finances.
While there was enough to pay off the debt, what I'm missing is that contribution to the finances. Because of the auction and the life insurance, we can, at least in the short term, we can maintain the lifestyle to some degree that we had become accustomed to. If it wasn't for the life insurance, there is no way we would have that. I do wish I would have doubled that life insurance at some point but also we can only afford so many payments. The financials are really important. Our key to a happy marriage was he had his farm checkbook, and that was his money, I had my checkbook and that was my money.
I knew what was going on in the farm but that was his deal. I never cared what he bought. I'm like, "If you can afford it, you can buy it." That's how we operated. I didn't realize how many things he had bought [laughs] in all honesty. At least the financial piece and the list of assets and liabilities was very up-to-date and we both had a really good grasp on that.
Joe: One of the themes is running through this is that you can do as good as you can to know it all and it's just not going to happen. You're not going to know all of it. You can try to try to take off some of the burden if something does happen. The life insurance conversation, we have that conversation, my wife and I a lot and there's always hidden things that you don't know and you can't expect and you can't plan for. We talk about that a lot. Do we have enough? Do we need to have more, especially as you add kids to the mix its really changed my perspective on things. Emily, you inspire me to have a spreadsheet, at least for some of the financials and what's going on.
I have a very, what I would say simple financial situation because I don't farm and I don't have 27 other people that I've been paying, and I don't have cash to keep track of anymore. That's a huge piece that would be really hard to keep track of, and you're never going to know it all, but at least something would be a place to start.
Brad: Thank you, Krishona for sharing all of this. It always makes me think too because I have younger kids. Our kids are about the same age as each other and it just makes you think a little bit. I know we do have some of those. It's always difficult conversations to have even with your spouse about all of this. I think one thing that I've learned is just to be more prepared and try to be anyways. I know you'll never be there but I think to think about those things and have those difficult conversations, even though we don't want to.
Krishona: I think that rolls nicely into my next point, and it's really know who your people are and who they aren't. There's been some of the things people have said to me. Shortly after my husband died, I was somewhere and somebody said to me, "Are you going to get on farmersonly.com now to find a man to run your farm?" I was like, "Did you really just say that to me?" I've had to just learn that that is a reflection of them and not of me. I think because I would never have said that ever to anyone but people say things to you that are so weird. Also, there have been a lot of people that have really helped that I wasn't expecting. First of all, I would say everyone I work with has been phenomenal. My direct supervisors really helped me navigate FMLA, gave me the time that I needed and to be away, and I guess that didn't surprise me because I know my coworkers were great. That was great. Chad's friends, and I'm sure that he had talked to them ahead of time, but they have been really great. My ag mechanic who is a loose can-- he's an interesting fellow. He checks in, he stops by, he did a significant amount of work for the auction. He has been fantastic.
Our horse and cattle friends, I think because they know-- you guys know, the work that goes into cattle and horses and just a farm, they understood it. Of course, my girlfriends, whether they're high school or college or neighbor girlfriends, have been great. Our neighbors who are also-- We still do have two farmers in Otsego, which is unusual because of where we live, but they have been wonderful. I knew who the mechanics were. I knew who the diesel mechanic was, I knew who the car mechanic was. I knew who our people were, and that has been very helpful.
Joe: That was going to be one of my biggest questions for you because I think that's something that we all are pretty good at identifying is who are our people. Now, some people surprise you and are there, and you may have expected them to be or not, but I'm glad you put the qualifier on of who your people are and who aren't. I think that's just as important a lot of times to identify the people that are actually, you are not helping me in this situation, and the healthiest thing for me to do is to just remove you from the situation.
That is a big piece that I'm glad that, hopefully, you recognize it early in the process. I think that's one thing about the farming community, horse, cattle, crops, whatever it is. The good people, they come out of the woodwork when something like this happens and they do show up. I'm glad that you had that experience, that people were there for you and you felt like that was something you could count on.
Krishona: Our neighbors just-- there's a lot of-- and my husband's family, there's been so many people that have been so good, but the reason that I put in there know who your people aren't. The day after Chad passed away, and he had a lot of really, really nice hay fields, and everybody admired and knew his hayfield in the area, well, because he went into hospice and passed so quickly, once that point happened, he had already paid all of his spring rent, his first half, because he assumed he would-- his goal was to farm until he couldn't.
In fact, he spread manure with me in the tractor, and he probably shouldn't have been in there. His friend lifted him in the tractor on a Friday, and then he passed away on a Tuesday. He was spreading manure because that is what he wanted to do, but the day after he passed away, there was a neighbor that went around to every landowner and tried to get only his hay ground out from under him. First of all, my husband was very much loved in the community, so that wouldn't have happened, but he had also paid his spring rent.
Just don't be a jerk. I know we can't swear on the podcast. I would use other words, Joe, but don't-- I know land is hard to get. I know it's a precious resource, but in this situation, the day after somebody passes and you are going on doors and knocking on landowners only on the hay ground to try to get this beautiful orchard grass, alfalfa [unintelligible 00:44:00] ground, shame on you. Do not be that person. I'm sure in every community, somebody knows who that person would be, and if you don't know it, it might be you. Just never be that person trying to grab land in the situation where there's been a horrific issue, like a death of someone.
Emily: Yes, don't be that person. I can't agree more. Don't be that person. You're right. If you don't know who it is, it might be you, so make sure it's not.
Joe: There's not much else to say about that I think. We were right on the edge of putting some cussing on tape, so it might be time to move to number nine on the list of what's next and focus on, yes, there's always going to be a bad apple.
Krishona: There's so many good.
Joe: So many good ones. Let's focus on that. Hopefully, if you're wondering who the bad apple is, look at yourself real quick.
Krishona: Yes. Just don't be that person. I guess the ninth one is, give support and not advice. My husband and I, we had all those really hard conversations and we had five months, which is never enough. If he would have passed away in like an accident suddenly, I would be in a completely different position. I honestly, it would not have been good. This wasn't good either, but at least I felt more prepared but give support and not advice.
I've had so many people come up to me and say, "You can't live there. You must sell every truck, every trailer, every horse, every cow." I don't know if people are putting themselves like, if you're not from a farm or-- I grew up on a dairy farm, so I get what it takes. It's not easy, but we did downsize and we did have an auction and we had a plan, but for people to be very adamant, "You must sell X, Y, Z," it doesn't help. Or, for people to say, "You have to get on farmersonly.com," or for people to say, "What are you going to do? You're going to be all alone." Well, that does not help the situation to say those things.
I have several really good friends, and my one friend, Barb, her favorite saying is, and she has been through some things, is don't borrow worry. I think about that a lot when people say, "What are you going to do next year when your youngest daughter goes to college? You're going to be all alone. How are you going to take care of the cattle?" I'm like, "Okay, we're not going to borrow worry. We're going to do the best we can." You know what? I hire somebody to do chores. The dairy farmers have a slew of children, thankfully, and they are very handy kids, so it's not like there are no options around here.
Emily: I really, really like that, what your friend said, don't borrow worry. I think you hit on something really important, Krishona, that we've talked about on the show before too, when we've talked on various mental health topics and things and grieving, I think is really similar in some ways to that in how you approach people. You're right. That support is going to be a lot more meaningful and a lot more helpful than advice.
Something that we've also discussed a lot on this podcast is how you don't really know what somebody else is going through, and you don't really know what their thresholds are for certain levels of pain or stress or grief, et cetera. From the outside looking in, you may think you know all the details, and so you can provide the stellar advice you have. Don't, because you don't have all the details. Even if you think you do, you don't. Like you said, was any of the advice people gave you like that helpful at all?
Emily: [laughs] Exactly.
Krishona: Well, and it would just make me angry. I've had to get over that because it was also family members that were very adamant about things. I just wanted to say, "Do you think we didn't talk about this? Do you think we didn't prepare? I think that's what made me the most angry is I felt like saying, "Do you think we were clueless?" Yes, it was a shock, but also then you go into like, "Okay, how can we help him? What can we do to prepare?" You go into that triage mode.
All of us, I think in this profession, were very goal and task-oriented. The task was to get these things in line. The goal was to be in a good-- the best position you could be in when the worst-case scenario was going to happen. By people saying all these negative things, it doesn't help. Where instead of saying, "You need to sell your cattle," why don't you say, "Hey, would you like me to come over once a week and just open the gate so the steers don't run out on you when you give a round bale?" That's way more helpful than saying, "Oh, you need to sell the steers."
Emily: The perfect example. Yes.
Krishona: Perfect example. I can tell you, I made mistakes even though we tried. Everything went into the estate, and I did sell some cattle just to make it more manageable. Dang it, do you know that cattle are considered inventory and we're not included in the estate and I had to pay a lot of taxes when I sold the cattle. Even though my accountant is very good and has been very helpful and very involved, it surprised him and me that in my situation, I don't know if it applies to everyone, the cattle were inventory and were not in the estate.
Emily: That's a nice little tidbit for people listening. Write that down because we deal with people that are dealing with cattle. That's really important that they're considered inventory.
Krishona: At least in my situation. I know we need to wrap up here, but we did try to do something special. We tried to keep as many traditions as we could. I don't know if any of you have ever heard of a company called StoryWorth, and I'm not endorsing them, but this is a company that, it's a subscription and you pick questions and they send you a question a week to answer. Then at the end, it makes a book. Well, we all do writing. The questions would be simple like, what is your favorite memory of your mom or what was your favorite tradition as a kid? What was your favorite birthday present? How did you meet your spouse? All of those things.
It was a 52-question thing for a whole year, and we got through about 40 of them before he passed away. That book I gave to everyone for Christmas, and is probably one of the most valuable treasures. If you can, try to do it in a lot of it. Towards the end, it was a quick triage of notes, and then in the evening when I was on leave, it was something that you could do. My husband's mother was very good about pictures. She had scanned a lot of pictures. You can include pictures in the book, but just something that is a little bit special. Try and find the positives even. Most days, I would like to sit on the couch and cry, but that can't happen. You try to find the positives.
Emily: Those books, preserving those memories, creating a repository almost like if you just need something about Chad, go to this book and you can find whatever memory or sentiment it is you're looking for. I think that's a great way to keep ourselves motivated and knowing this person isn't gone. We still have them here. We can find them in these places. I think it's so nice that it sounds like you gave those to a lot of people. It's also not just, "I'm creating this and it's just for me," but here's something that we can all share in this grief together this way too. That's a really powerful thing for the individuals but the group as well.
Krishona: Well, that wasn't a company that I was familiar with and it might be the only time the Facebook algorithm was helpful because it was, of course, a Facebook ad that popped up. A lot of my friends have started doing that if they are fortunate enough to have a grandparent still living, just record your family history or something from grandparents or even parents. Parents are getting older as well. The other thing is my husband wanted me to write his obituary while he was here. That was rough. It was very nice. When a person is in that position, you're like, "Well, I guess we'll do whatever you want." That was something special that he wanted, that we were able to do.
Emily: I will say, as a side note, it was a very beautifully written obituary, very well done. Probably very hard for you. Probably sounded impossible when it was first brought up like, "How can I do this and you're still alive?" It sounds like it was probably a really powerful process for you and for him. These are not easy things. They are tough things, but hopefully, and it sounds like you have found some particular situations from this overall situation that were really powerful and nice and can help in our own healing processes as well. In doing some of this hard stuff, we're also helping ourselves down the road.
Krishona: I think that's the biggest question I've gotten is what are you doing to help your kids? What are you doing to help you? Emily, you know this. Because of COVID, there is a huge backlog in mental health. It is very hard to find a therapist that fits. I tried to push it and just find anybody with an opening. I'm telling you that was not good because my kids are like this is the dumbest thing I've ever done when it really should have been a positive, but all the people that were recommended to us were not accepting new patients or even-- they had like a 12-month waitlist.
Krishona: I think talking about it like this, and we do talk about him a lot and that always helps. To recap, I'm aware of time here and again, everybody's situation is different. In my particular situation with a very, I consider mid-40s young, a young healthy spouse that was also a farmer that owned cattle and equipment and land but was also renting a ton of things that had a lot of irons in the fire, having those difficult conversations before difficult situations, getting your paperwork in order, understanding your medical insurance, understanding what vehicles you have in your fleet, what trucks and trailers, understanding all of your rental contracts.
I really thought, "I'm in the land of 10,000 rental contracts." As you guys have said before, become friends with your farm service agency office. Have a grasp on your financials. Know who your people are, and then also know who your people aren't. I still to this day have a list of who my people are. From an outsider's, just give support. Try to keep the advice to yourself unless specifically asked. I did not ask for any advice that was freely given to me. Then if you have the capacity, just try to do something special in whatever special means to you.
I guess from my experience, talking about it is therapeutic in a way. I really hope that no one ever has to go through this situation, but at least, if you do, these are just some things, from my perspective, which were helpful and help get us through the situation that we are presented with.
Emily: I think there was a tidbit in there for everybody. At least one thing that we can be doing now regardless of age. I think there's always a few things that we can do. Joe, any final thoughts?
Joe: I think everyone should listen to this. If you're crying for most of it like I have been, then go back and listen again so you can pick up on what you missed.
Krishona: Hey, we did pretty good though.
Emily: We did.
Joe: I think so. I had the benefit of being able to mute, and this isn't fortunately the video's not captured. No one will see me cry too hard. I just really appreciate you being willing to talk about this because it's a horrible situation, but I'm glad that you're willing to look for ways that we can get something good out of a terrible situation and that just speaks a lot to who I know you are as a person. That's all I have to say on that, I guess.
Emily: Thank you, Krishona, for coming on. Gosh, I'm getting choked up again. Thank you for trusting us with this really important topic. I agree with Joe, this is something I hope everybody listens to. There's a lot to learn here. I know it may be, like I said at the beginning, it wasn't the easiest conversation for us to have but really important, and it means a lot to us that you're willing to share this. I want to remind our listeners out there, this was one person's story from one very specific situation as Krishona has said multiple times, but certainly, it's my hope and I know it's Krishona's hope, that we gave you some things to think about today.
Some conversations you can have. Of course, none of us here on this episode today are experts in end-of-life planning. Just sharing from lived experience. If you have questions, reach out to those experts, know who your people are both for that personal support, but also for that professional support you may need as well. Krishona, any final words from you?
Krishona: No. Thank you, guys, for having me on. I know it's not a pleasant story and I wish it had a happy ending, but it is important and in some ways, it's helpful to talk about in some weird way. Of course, I just love the Moos Room and you guys. This was just the logical place.
Emily: Thank you for that, Krishona. Yes, as Joe said, I know we will have you back, and hopefully, we can talk about some other things with you in the future too. With that, we are going to wrap this episode. Lots of good information here. If you have questions or comments about today's episode, if you have specific questions about processes, I would again, direct those to your people.
If you do have questions or comments about what we talked about today, anything specific for Krishona, you can email those to firstname.lastname@example.org. That's T-H-E-M-O-O-S-R-O-O-M@umn.edu. You can also call and leave us a voicemail at 612-624-3610. You can find us on the web at extension umn.edu and on Twitter @UMNmoosroom.
Joe: Chad Michael Martinson passed away at the age of 48 on May 24th, 2022, from liver cancer, an unexpected diagnosis that robbed him of a life he loved and devastated his family and friends. Chad's love of farming and operating equipment led him to start Leaning Pine Farm, where he produced hay, corn, straw, and sold beef to the surrounding community. He took great pride in building a successful farming business from scratch without a formal degree or advising, and with just enough depreciation to reduce his tax burden.
The joy of farming resulted in him feeling like he never worked a day in his life. He was a progressive and intelligent farmer and Chad could operate any piece of equipment with precision, and could fix and build anything his family broke or dreamed up eventually. He loved auctions and winning items, which mostly meant he paid the highest price. This resulted in him having multiple projects going on at once but none fully completed. He was a staunch supporter of his wife and daughter's love of horses and cattle and helped his youngest daughter start Martinson Herefords, which has grown into a small herd of overly tame registered show cows.
Chad was a kind, honest, fun, and easygoing man who enjoyed talking, playing cards, going out for lunch, old country music, attending the national finals rodeo, bowling, golfing, being with friends, and was game for any adventurous family plant. He is survived by a host of family and a host of friends that might as well be family. To say that he has missed is an astounding understatement.
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