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How to evaluate opportunities for your operation

grafvision/iStock/Getty Images Hog barns, grain bins in rural area, countryside
Be on the lookout, check for fit, and trial-run it.

I’ve found that the best evidence of a farm operation that’s successful and thriving often has much to do with how the farm’s leader thinks about opportunities.

The best farm leaders are always on the lookout for new opportunities for their operation – in many different areas and forms. Opportunity can be found in anything from evaluating a piece of land that comes up for sale to learning new marketing and merchandising tools to trying out a new production method to determine whether it’s right for the operation.

Staying sharp

Here’s what happens when farm leaders aren’t on the lookout for opportunities to improve their operation: the operation tends to falter and can be in danger of not continuing for another generation. Maybe today you’re even farming some of the land of those who took the “but we’ve never done it that way before” mindset.

The key is to not only be on the lookout for opportunities for your operation, but also to be ready and able to evaluate those opportunities. That way, you can select whatever will best help move your operation to where you want it to be.

Think through three

There are a few considerations to think through when you come across an opportunity that appears to be worthwhile. Use these three to start evaluating the next new thing that comes along.

  1. Always be on the lookout. If you don’t have your eyes open and checking for possible new opportunities, they aren’t necessarily going to present themselves at your farm office. Some ways to keep a good lookout? Talk with others in your area who have their eyes out for the same types of things, or read or listen to news about new advancements that could be applied to farming. You could talk with others who have operations you admire (doesn’t need to be in your geographical area) to ask about new things they’ve recently tried or are trying out.
  2. Make sure it fits. There are any number of new ideas and approaches out there when it comes to pretty much every aspect of farming. But the process of evaluating those new things is critical – it has to be right for your operation, not right for the other farmer down the road. This starts with having a clear handle on your farm’s future vision, mission and major goals for the near term. The opportunity you’re evaluating needs to be a clear fit within each of those categories – it must advance your operation closer to where you want to be in the future.
  3. Implement as a trial, then evaluate again. If the new opportunity is something that can be implemented in your operation on some sort of trial basis, this can be a good chance to get an idea of whether something truly works for you before going all in. Some opportunities, such as land purchases, simply don’t lend themselves to a trial period – so spending time to do feasibility studies on that potential purchase is important. But many other new ideas can be brought into your operation on a trial basis first – and farmers have been doing field trials for ages. Consider other areas of your operation where you can use a trial first, and then re-evaluate potential fit using what you’ve learned.

Here’s a trial you can use right now for your marketing plans: get a free trial of our marketing solutions.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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