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Think about 3 things when improving your farm operationThink about 3 things when improving your farm operation

Most top farms have one goal in common: Always keep improving.

Darren Frye

August 21, 2023

4 Min Read
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What are top farm operators doing these days to move their businesses ahead of the curve? There are a couple things I see these operators doing regularly that can spark some ideas.

The main thing? The leaders’ operations might look different in major ways from the outside, but there tends to be one thing in common. The farm leaders take a similar mindset that looks like this: Always keep improving.


This outlook extends to everything about the operation and the way they run their farm – everything from ideas about production to future planning to employee training and development to how they pursue learning and improving their own knowledge and skill set as a farmer and business manager.

Taking this mindset helps in multiple ways. It helps ensure that the farm and its people don’t simply run on auto-pilot or fall into the "we've always done it this way” mindset. It helps keep everyone focused on the future and what the farm will need as the operating environment continues to shift and change.

Keep it going

Thinking about improving also keeps everyone aware of the reality that no one – no matter how many years they’ve farmed, how many acres they farm or side businesses they run, or how many years of ag education they’ve gone through – has ever fully “arrived.” Each person can always work to advance their learning further in some way.

Here are three things to think about as you consider how to integrate this mindset further into your operation.

  1. Apply a growth mindset toward everything. This includes any mistakes or missteps that happen along the way, especially when people are learning something new. Looking at things that “go wrong” as opportunities to learn and grow in some way can be helpful for both farm leaders and their teams. It allows people to try new things in the first place. If people are worried about the leader having a negative reaction if something doesn’t go perfectly the first time, they’ll likely be reluctant in the future to initiate improvements or positive changes. They’ll just stick to the same way they’ve always done things. Encouraging people to bring ideas and improvements to the operation will be much easier if they see that if something doesn’t go perfectly right away, everyone can learn from it and simply try again.

  2. Recognize that learning requires both planning and action. Learning something new usually requires intentional planning. Sometimes learning happens on the fly but often it means thinking ahead of time about what the farm needs and then planning for how to grow our skills in those areas. As the farm’s leader you might take inventory of where your operation could benefit most from improvements. For example, maybe a leader decides that it would be beneficial for themselves to learn more about marketing and marketing tools that are available. Then, they can create a plan to intentionally learn more about marketing, such as working one-on-one with a market advisor who can also act as a coach and teacher to help the farmer increase their market knowledge and skills.

  3. Encourage progress in learning. Learning something new – and then applying it to your farm operation – can take time. The bigger the learning or application, the longer it will likely take. But that also likely means major positive change is in the works for your operation – change that could take the farm to the next level. It could be easy to become discouraged when it seems like the learning or the progress we’d like to see is taking longer than we’d hoped. As the farm’s leader, look for ways to encourage ongoing learning and new improvements or projects that are in progress to advance the farm, even if they’re currently still in the works or haven’t yet come to fruition. That can go a long way in helping everyone stay motivated to keep learning and see the changes through.

How are you navigating this market?

This summer, farmers have found that getting some third-party perspective from our market advisors has helped ease their minds. The advisors help farmer clients with planning and execution around marketing decisions and help keep them up to speed on the current rapidly-changing grain market situation – and how it impacts their operation.

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. Learn more about our market advisor programs and offerings at www.waterstreetag.com.

About the Author(s)

Darren Frye

CEO, Water Street Solutions

Darren Frye grew up on an innovative, integrated Illinois farm. He began trading commodities in 1982 and started his first business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. In 1994 he started a consulting business, Water Street Solutions to help Midwest farmers become more successful through financial analysis, crop insurance, marketing consulting and legacy planning. The mission of Finance First is to get you to look at spreadsheets and see opportunity, to see your business for what it can be, and to help you build your agricultural legacy.

Visit Water Street Solutions

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