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Know when to amend your farm goals

Family Farm Success: Turning around is hard. Walking the wrong way fast is harder.

Davon Cook

January 29, 2024

2 Min Read
Grain bins on both sides of rural road
Getty Images/William Reagan

Since I live near foothills and mountains in Colorado, hiking is our recreation of choice. Some families hunt, some fish, boat, or go to Vegas. We hike. On a recent hike alone, my original goal was a frozen waterfall. I arrived quicker than expected and decided I’d aim for the peak of this (small) mountain. Given I had an obligation to pick someone up at a certain time, I kicked it into high gear. I set a turnaround time, then consulted my watch and map at every fork in the trail.

My thought process went something like this: “Oh, I am close…I’m going to make it to the top! Half mile left, and ten minutes until my turnaround time. Speed it up! Quarter mile left and at my turnaround time. Surely, I can hurry on the way down and be ok. Right? Wait, that last quarter mile is straight up rock scramble. It’s going to take a while. Well, shoot, I guess I’ll turn around.”

As I grudgingly started walking down, I expected to be disappointed and frustrated. That didn’t happen. Instead, I quickly relaxed. No longer breathing heavy, I enjoyed the scenery, and felt relieved that I wouldn’t spend the next 2.5 miles worrying about being late.

I started wondering how many other times I stayed hyper-focused on an objective and didn’t consider whether it’s still the right one. I’m known for my persistence! In this case, my goal changed from “reach the top and savor the view” (and take a selfie) to “think of the other person and be on time” (and be less stressed in the process). We are encouraged to be goal-driven, but there is wisdom in knowing when to amend.

In your farming life, can you think of goals that should be reevaluated or amended? Here are a few examples I’ve heard through the years.

  • We set a goal to add 2,000 acres over three years, but after the first 500 I realized that’s not right for my family life.

  • We hired great estate planning experts to execute a plan for our children to own the farmland together in an orderly fashion. Almost through the process, when we discussed the details with them, we all agreed that wasn’t the best solution.

  • I planned to expand this new venture. But after two years I had to admit it wasn’t working, wrote-off the sunk costs, and started working on the next idea.

I am certainly not suggesting goals aren’t important. Rather I’m suggesting we give ourselves grace and space to amend when it’s needed. And in case you’re wondering, I was almost on time for the pickup!

For a related discussion, see my blog about Grit vs.Quit.

Davon Cook is a family business consultant at Pinion. Reach Davon at [email protected]. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

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Farm Goals

About the Author(s)

Davon Cook

Family business consultant, Pinion

Davon Cook is a family business consultant at Pinion (formerly K Coe Isom). She helps families work well together in the business and navigate transitions in leadership and ownership. She works with farmers and ranchers all day every day and is passionate about production ag. Davon has been specializing in this area since 2012, partnering with Lance Woodbury at Ag Progress and K Coe Isom. She facilitates peer groups covering a range of strategic and technical topics, so she understands the issues producers are managing every day. Her perspective is shaped by spending ten years working in her own family’s cotton business near Lubbock, Texas, and a career spanning the ag value chain from McKinsey to ConAgra to consulting with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation throughout Africa. She welcomes comments, questions, and conversation!

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