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Keep both long and short-term outlooks in view

Both will guide your farm through tough situations.

As the leader of the farm, you’re the main one responsible for a few different elements in your operation. That includes setting priorities, creating a long-term vision, and allocating resources, among other things.

I’ve talked with farm leaders who feel that one of their toughest jobs as a farm CEO is creating and then bringing to life that long-term vision. As farmers, we love production – we love to grow things and produce a crop. That’s probably why we got into farming in the first place.

The reality is that the growing season is very demanding of our time and attention – and rightfully so. A farm leader can start getting caught up primarily in the demands of the here and now. That leads to a focus on the short-term – with not as much thought given to where the farm is headed in the future, and what needs to be done today in order to get there.

Two outlooks

This shorter-term focus can work when it comes to getting a crop in the ground, making sure it matures well, and is harvested at the right time. Where it can hurt the farm is if the short-term is the only focus within the farm operation.

This often looks like a lack of direction from “the top”. No one really knows where the operation is going or what it might be like in the future – because it hasn’t been communicated.

The key is to keep both outlooks in view – both are helpful and useful, but for different purposes. The short-term outlook might be the next 4-6 weeks in the operation. You can plan out what needs to get done within that time period.

The long-term outlook is more like a year, five years or even ten years out. The farther into the future, the less detailed it will likely be, but that’s ok. The point is thinking about where you want your operation to be.

Living in the unknown

Right now, there’s perhaps even more of a temptation to focus on the present day and the short-term outlook – because we’re living through an unprecedented time of pandemic. The situation changes every single day. A long-term outlook might seem unnecessary during such a time – but it’s like a compass to guide your business through the pandemic. It will help guide you through the challenges of the current situation, while helping you stay close to your big priorities and where you want the farm to be.

When you find yourself focusing only on “short-term” plans for your farm, you can decide to take a step back to include the bigger picture as well. If you’ve already done quite a bit of long-term thinking about your farm’s future, try to consciously keep it in mind as you make decisions right now for your farm.

One area of the operation where it’s very important to have both a short-term and long-term outlook is when it comes to the markets. That can be very difficult to do, particularly during times of great volatility and global economic upheaval like the current situation. You can learn about more ways to bring both types of focus to your plans by talking with our market advisors.

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

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