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The challenge of change on the farm

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How comfortable are you with making changes to your operation?

In ag (and any other industry), it’s the truth that there are some people who seem to be more open to change – and some who are less open.

In fact, some people might even be downright against seemingly any change, even when the change might be helpful or provide an advantage for their farm operation. You might even have known some farmers like this during your career. You could even be farming their ground now because they just weren’t able to adapt to the changing landscape of today’s ag world.

The truth is that change is hard for every single person. That’s why I believe that the saying, “In order for change to happen, the pain of staying the same has to become greater than the pain of change” is absolutely true. But why does it have to get to that point? Why aren’t most people able to recognize when change will be helpful, advantageous or just plain necessary – before the situation becomes painful?

Feeling the pain

Most people – farmers included – are inclined to keep doing the same thing the same way. It depends somewhat on your personality as far as how open you naturally are to make changes or try doing something differently. But for most people, a problem must become very painful before they come to the point of making a major change.

When thinking about farm businesses, this can become a problem quickly. For some farmers, the answer to any question involving change might sound something like this: “Because we’ve always done it that way.” But in today’s fast-paced ag world, continuing to do something simply because that’s the way it’s always been done isn’t sustainable and doesn’t keep your farm competitive.

Three questions

Think through these three questions anytime there’s a problem at hand where making a change might make a big difference.

  1. What is this problem currently costing the farm? Try to quantify the problem numerically if possible in some way – both financially and in terms of production. Also try to quantity it in terms of additional time that’s being spent (as in employee hours, machine hours, etc). Then list any “hidden” costs in terms of lost efficiency, reduced morale, lost opportunity and so on.
  2. What are potential solutions to this problem that our farm hasn’t tried yet? If you’ve tried any previous solutions, list those out plus why they didn’t work. Then try to go beyond what’s already been tried and brainstorm new possible solutions. Try to get way “out there” in terms of ideas. Keep going beyond the first one or two – it’s possible you will get more creative as you keep thinking about it. You could also brainstorm about this with an advisor.
  3. What’s the downside if we try something new and it doesn’t work out? This is about letting yourself consider the “worst case” scenario of a possible change. For a smaller change, the downsides are probably not that large – so that might be a good place to start if your operation isn’t typically changing things. Looking at the worst case can help remove some of the anxiety and uncertainty that change can bring up – because you’ve already seen what it looks like.

Market changes

On the farm, an aspect that many farmers find can be difficult to bring change to is around their marketing strategy. Often, farmers find themselves doing the same thing each year in their marketing – and that might work out sometimes – or it might not.

A tailored marketing plan that’s flexible with market moves is key. Our market advisors partner with and bring education around different marketing tools. They help farmer clients with planning and execution around marketing decisions.

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

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