The value of food and of farming has become part of the mainstream conversation these days.
If you are a farmer, what you do is important.
And like any other year, we must remember what it is that makes us great at what we do. To help with that, here’s a little list gleaned from a multitude of farm advisers and publications.
Relationships count especially when home and business are in the same space.
Too often we take for granted that the family is in tune, feels appreciated and has the same passion for the farm (or fears for the future) as you do.
- More with Brenda Schoepp: Creating food security requires innovative approaches
This is often not the case and so with farming, relationships are ever more critical. Loving support of each individual regardless of age, gender or capacity is critical when running a business from under the same roof (and in running a home).
Don’t expect your family or your team to know what you are thinking. Share with them.
Communication is key every day, regardless of the muddle of things going on in your mind.
The family farm cannot be led from the front or pushed from the back — rather it is working, living, loving, talking and growing in tandem with our families and teams. You won’t outsmart a two-year-old so explaining early the plans and potential outcome to everyone in your family and on your team is critical.
Studies have shown that successful companies are those in which the leadership continuously communicates the vision. Do this.
Having a vision that you share keeps all eyes on the prize.
If there is no leadership statement, purpose, vision or mission statement in your business, the family and staff will eventually scatter or unhappily stay while waiting for something great to occur.
Know and appreciate that your client is not the grain company or the packing plant. Your constant and only client is the consumer. Remembering this is critical at every stage. Having processes and protocols that reflect this, including biosecurity and health protocols, changes the way we farm.
It is more than having a discussion on what kind of grain to plant, it is a deep dive into the end-user. What is this variety used for and by whom? Can we connect directly with that end-user to fully appreciate the possible? How? Where in the world does this grain go after it leaves the farm? Why? At what cost? What is the information or technology we need to know?
Being open to new technology or new possibilities is critical for farm success.
This includes the very small family farm. One farm may sell 10,000 tonnes of grain and the other 1,000 jars of jam. Both require fine tuning along the path to efficiently and cost effectively produce the grain or the berries. It is about adapting what is needed for the benefit of the farm, the family, the team and the end-user.
Just want to put on rubber boots and farm? You can’t sell that. What farming is not is a way of life. You generate profit to allow for or create a way of life.
The farm is not the life — you are. You are the key to your family and your community, regardless of your role. The responsibility that comes with that is fully understanding and executing financial wizardry. The farm is an avenue for provision. Seeing it as anything less is a strain on mental health.
Mental health is enhanced when we take a break.
Not only do we need time to think, we need time to learn, play, pray, investigate and tend to our intimate relationships. This time might include an honest discussion on succession and the future of the farm.
There is no future without open, transparent, communicated succession and this has been proven repeatedly. Authentic, financially planned and documented succession ensures a smoother transition of business and builds confidence in the members of the farming family. Anything less is wishful thinking and increases financial and relationship risk.
Mitigating and managing risk is a huge component of the success of any business and no less so in farming.
The fact that there are so many controllable and uncontrollable risks can be overwhelming. Start with those you can control and research those you cannot. Evaluating your risk tolerance is really the key in coming to grips with what we can and cannot endure physically, financially, socially and mentally. Communicate this to your family and team.
In all things, keep detailed accounts and records, and be open to facing crisis early.
Records won’t make the problem go away but help you understand what it is that you are doing and why. Your solid relationships where values are aligned help you through all journeys and allow for you to not only carry on, but to dream and scheme for the future.
As sure as the sun does rise and set, there will be a tomorrow.
How you prepare for that day will determine your words, actions and successes as a person and as a farmer, as a member of a farm family and farm team.