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How to lead with your farm’s future in mind

Getty/iStock/knapjames three grain bins in the winter
Three questions to set the tone for winter off-season.

This time of year, as families gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m reminded that for many in agriculture, work and family are intertwined. Many farms are family businesses or have their roots as a family business.

Family businesses can bring some unique challenges and opportunities to the table – but I think most farmers would say that there can be great blessings involved in working with family. Many farmers specifically chose that route when given the opportunity to join the family farm.

The current season – with 2021 harvest mostly in the rearview mirror now – can be a good chance for all of us in agriculture to reflect on not only the highs and lows of the past crop year, but also the bigger picture of our operation.

Looking forward

This means thinking about what we hope for the future of our operation. Knowing what we hope for our farm to be or become in the future can help us to be very intentional about the plans we make for the upcoming year – and what we spend our time on each day.

Hopes and goals for the future of our operation might look very different, depending on where you’re at in your farming career, whether or not you’re the current or future leader, and whether you have family members returning to the operation or some other form of succession plan for the farm’s future.

Regardless of the specifics of your farm’s current situation and where you’re at in your career, farm leaders can be proactive with their intentions for the upcoming off-season and with planning with the farm’s future in mind.

Three questions

Here are some questions to keep in mind – for this winter and beyond.

  1. Where are we headed? Having a clear vision of where the farm operation is headed is the responsibility of the farm’s CEO and leadership team. Without knowing what we’re aiming for in the future, it can be nearly impossible to prioritize what we should focus on today, especially during the off-season where our time shifts from dealing primarily with urgent, production-related matters and toward important business planning matters.
  2. What’s our why? It’s also key for everyone on the farm – starting with the leader – to be clear on why our operation has these particular goals for the future, and why we’re doing what we’re doing. This is about leading and acting with a purpose. Driving forward with purpose in your operation helps inform every decision you make. Everyone on the farm understands why we’re doing what we’re doing and can pull on the rope together in the same direction.
  3. What does success actually look like? Knowing and being clear about what success looks like for your operation first means knowing that operation inside and out – including the financial numbers on the business side. It means being able to set metrics that are most meaningful to moving the needle toward success – and then educating your whole team on how they each individually can impact those numbers.

2022 markets

Another topic on farmers’ minds as we move closer to winter and 2022 is marketing plans – and where the grain markets may be heading into the new year. 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 also help farmer clients with planning and execution around marketing decisions.

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. Or learn more about our market advisor programs and offerings at

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

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