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Spring training for the farm’s next leader

gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images low angle view of two cheerful farmers
The busy time is the right time for future leaders to shadow the leader.

Planting season is a busy time on the farm – that certainly goes without saying. Everyone on the farm is working as efficiently as they can, to make sure the crop gets in the ground in the most optimum timeframe possible.

One of the busiest people in the operation – and probably at most other times of the year, as well – is the farm’s leader. Since they’re the one who’s ultimately responsible for the farm and its bottom line, they often find themselves shouldering a heavy load in every season, especially busy times.

Too busy?

Often, because the farm’s leader is so busy during planting season, it might not seem to be the right time to do something like train the farm’s next leader. “We can do that when we’re not so busy,” might be the typical train of thought.

But if the next leader of the operation never has the opportunity to learn exactly what the farm leader is responsible for during planting season, they’ll have no idea how to handle it themselves when the time comes for them to lead the operation on their own.

Real-time learning

Basically, if they’ve never shadowed the leader during planting season (even though it’s a critical, busy time) to see how the leader handles the season, they won’t have a clear frame of reference for how to deal with the types of situations that the leader must handle on the fly in the spring.

These in-the-moment calls aren’t the type of thing you learn to do by studying a book or talking with someone about it (though that may help with some situations). They’re the kind of thing that must be learned from a mentor, real-time, in the context of the unique farm operation they’ll one day lead.

They need the opportunity to watch and learn from the way you handle situations that come up during planting season, within the pressure and time constraints of the season itself. When your future leader goes through several different planting seasons with you in this way, they will begin preparing to one day confidently go solo – and that’s the end goal.

Think through three

Here are a few different areas to consider.

  • Operational aspects. Depending on the size of your operation, this work may be divided among several different managers, but make sure your future leader understands your role in overseeing it all, and exactly how you go about doing that.
  • People management. Again, this will depend on how your operation is set up, but they need to see and understand how you work to lead and manage employees and others in the operation when everything is running full speed ahead.
  • Financial and marketing matters. Your successor leader also needs to be involved alongside you as you keep up with the farm’s business side. This will help them understand how you balance the operational needs of the farm with the business management needs that continue even during planting season. If you work with a market advisor on your marketing plans and decisions, be sure to involve your future leader as you discuss marketing decisions, including any phone calls or meetings.

To get a partner for your farm’s marketing plans, get in touch with our team of market advisors or get a free trial of our marketing information service at www.waterstreetconsulting.com.

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