In May of this year, it was 10 years since I started farming. But I only farmed for 6. Why didn’t I make it? And why do so many others get out of farming? There are many studies and articles that list factors that make a farm business viable or list the characteristics of top performing farmers. Having experienced livestock farming for those 6 years, read many books on farming and small business, and having attended conferences and had many conversations with farmers, I have come up with the following top 10 distinctions of viable farming (© Gayl Creutzberg, 2010):
1. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” (Helen Keller). Farming can simply be just too much work, or difficult to get into. You need a leg up (perhaps financially), support (whether from the community, your family, or through a partnership with another business) and you need to know when and where to get help (a mentor or neighbour). COLLABORATION AND COOPERATION
2. “Attitude is everything”: a farmer is in control of their own destiny, sets their price and presents themself as a professional. ATTITUDE
3. “The only source of knowledge is experience.” (Albert Einstein). Understand the fundamental principles of production (KNOWLEDGE):
a) the importance of soil health as a foundation to sustainable food production. SOIL HEALTH KNOW HOW!
b) farming is solar energy conversion into food that we can eat, fuel to keep us warm and fiber to clothe us. FREE ENERGY!
c) the efficient use of tools and machinery. EFFICIENCY KNOW HOW!
d) a farmer is farming when they are observing, not when they are choring or pulling weeds. EXPERIENCE AND WISDOM!
4. Viable farm model: selecting a farm business model and operating at a scale that is within a farmer’s physical capacity, that supports the farm family’s quality of life and that complements the farmer’s strengths. SCALE
5. Business mind-set: innovation, entrepreneurship, problem solving and the ability to wear many hats and juggle. INNOVATION
6. “Nobody plans to fail, they just fail to plan.” Planning includes goal setting, contingency planning (understanding risks and constraints), and planning for resilience. PLANNING
7. Business training (BUSINESS ACUMEN):
a) expert relationship building marketer and an advocate for social responsibility. MARKETING
b) knowing the break-even cost of production for each product and how to minimize expenses. FINANCES
c) keeping records from year to year. RECORD KEEPING
8. Life long learning: attending training, conferences, farm tours and learning from other farmers. ON-GOING TRAINING
9. Diverse income sources: other sources of farm income such as custom work enterprises that offset the cost of machinery, or electricity generation. DIVERSIFICATION
10. Interpersonal skills: communication and conflict management skills for relationship management (including business partnerships, marriages). EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
If you would like to use this information, please contact me.