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The 7 decisions that worry farmers most

Which of these business concerns keeps you up at night?

Darren Frye, CEO

July 12, 2021

3 Min Read
Older senior man lying in bed cannot sleep
amenic181/iStock/Getty Images Plus

It’s no secret to anyone leading a farm operation or who is on deck to be the farm’s next leader: There’s a lot of responsibility on a farm leader’s shoulders.

Most farm CEOs have been farming for a long time – maybe even their entire career – and truly want to do the best they can.

Farming is “in their blood.” It’s their passion – they’re passionate about the ground and the people and what they do, and they want to make sure the operation continues on beyond them, into the future. They know there’s a lot riding on them and the decisions they have to make.

Losing sleep?

I’m thinking here about the “big” decisions. These are the decisions that impact the operation and the people in it at a far-reaching level. These decisions are usually big in both financial impact and in determining the future direction of the operation. They’re the types of decisions that sometimes can even determine whether the farm will go on to the next generation.

Often, these types of decisions can be overwhelming and can cause a farmer to lose sleep at night. While it’s good to think major decisions through carefully, there’s a fine line between doing that and overanalyzing. Nobody wants to lose sleep about their farm, but sometimes it seems like gaining peace of mind around major decisions can be a challenge.

7 big ones

Here are some decisions many farmers say tend to worry them the most. Then I’ll share three techniques and ideas leaders can use to help lower anxiety and gain greater peace of mind.

  • Business direction of the operation

  • Marketing plans and decisions

  • Buying and/or renting new ground

  • High-dollar farm equipment purchases

  • Transferring the operation to the next generation

  • Major capital purchases (buildings, bins)

  • How to hire and who to hire

3 strategies

The things you worry about most may or may not be on the list above, but whatever your greatest worry or worries about your operation, consider these three strategies the next time you find yourself confronting one of them.

  1. Dive into the numbers. Getting the right data about any major decision that you need to make for your operation is a key first step. Without timely, up-to-date financial information about your operation, making decisions becomes far more complicated and difficult than it needs to be. The numbers might confirm a gut feeling you already had about the decision, or might bring to light new information that you need to consider. Either way, good numbers are crucial.

  2. Create a process for big decisions. One idea that can help take some of the stress and anxiety out of decision-making around major decisions is to create a specific, step by step process that you and others in your operation use in making those decisions. The process helps ensure that the right considerations are made and the right people are consulted or asked to give input, every time.

  3. Talk with someone else. Speaking of input, hearing the perspective of another person who knows your operation well, who you trust, and who understands farming can be very helpful. Whether that’s your farming partners, a spouse, peer group member or trusted lender or advisor, they can serve as a sounding board for ideas and provide feedback from another angle. The input of a third party can be especially valuable, as they don’t have the emotional investment in the operation that say, a spouse or business partner would.

Our team of market advisors provide farm leaders with insightful perspective around marketing plans and decision-making. You can get in touch with us for more information or get a free two-week trial of our marketing information service at


About the Author(s)

Darren Frye

CEO, Water Street Solutions

Darren Frye grew up on an innovative, integrated Illinois farm. He began trading commodities in 1982 and started his first business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. In 1994 he started a consulting business, Water Street Solutions to help Midwest farmers become more successful through financial analysis, crop insurance, marketing consulting and legacy planning. The mission of Finance First is to get you to look at spreadsheets and see opportunity, to see your business for what it can be, and to help you build your agricultural legacy.

Visit Water Street Solutions

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