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Finance First: From the sign at the gate to the decision-making process, a business-first mindset creates professional success for farm operations.

Darren Frye, CEO

February 20, 2024

3 Min Read
Woman on laptop kneeling in a farm field
Getty Images/iStockPhoto

What comes to mind when I say: ‘Think about a professional farm operation?’ What does it look like?

What is involved? Who is there? What is the experience like when you visit? Is this what you want your own operation to be like?

I think more and more of today’s aspiring top farmers are seeing the need to set and maintain professional standards. They know that creating a professional image will help them be successful today and in the future.
This doesn’t mean that the people on the farm don’t get their hands dirty – quite the opposite, even the farm’s leader. Being involved in hands-on ways is essential for the farm’s leadership, especially as the farm grows and becomes more professional. It helps the leaders regularly take the pulse of the operation so they always have a clear sense of how things are going.

Business builders

If you farm with family members, it may be even more important to consider how you can create a professional operation. I’m not talking about setting up legal entities, but about how you mix business with family.

There are ways to do this that help you operate first and foremost as a business. It starts with the farm’s leaders – with the processes and procedures they put in place for how the farm will operate in a business-first way.

Doing that almost automatically brings a higher level of professionalism to the operation. And knowing how major decisions will be made by leadership – because there is a process in place – can add up to a more professional farm.

Create culture

Another important key is in creating a culture of being professional – for all employees and everyone involved in the operation. This means everyone knows how to treat anyone who steps foot on the farm in a professional way. Think everyone from landlords and lenders stopping by for a visit to vendors and suppliers.

  • Consider the first impression that someone gets when they see your farm for the first time. Think first here about the main farm site or office if you have one. What do they see? Is there a sign that tells them where to go? Think about this as if there is a potential new landlord coming to visit who has never been to your farm.

  • Next, think about the impression people get from the rest of your operation. From machine sheds to how you treat your landlord’s ground and maintain it during the growing season, it all counts toward building a professional operation.

  • Another positive thing to do is to get involved by serving on community boards and with nonprofit organizations in your local community to give back. Encourage the other leaders and people on your farm to do so as well. Having a focus on serving others in all areas of life will come back to impact both the farm and your community in many positive ways.

Farmers have found that getting some third-party perspective from market advisors helped ease their minds. The advisors help farmer clients with planning and execution around marketing decisions and help keep them up to speed on the current rapidly-changing grain market situation – and how it impacts their operation.

Get a free two-week trial of our marketing information service (MarketView Basic). Your free trial includes regular audio and video updates, technical analysis, recommendations and more. Learn more about our market advisor programs and offerings 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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