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What makes a good farm manager?

Land Values: Think knowledge, skills, goals, adaptability and more.

Our country, and particularly the Midwest, has been incredibly blessed with some of the most productive land in the world for agricultural purposes. Generations before us talk of being caretakers or stewards of farmland in our brief time, with a desire to “get it right.” I suspect the ones that follow will, too.

What attributes does one need to accomplish this task? People who manage farmland successfully —whether farmers, landowners or full-time farm managers — all have a few characteristics in common.

1. Know where you’re going and how to get there. Understand the farm unit and the goals of the business. You don’t have to be an expert in all aspects of the business, but the rudimentary knowledge of all areas is a must.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to be great at — or enjoy — every aspect of management. We all have areas of the workload we are passionate about as well as areas we do not enjoy. However, you still have to understand how and why the various components come together. For example, you might desire the increased marketing revenue of a specialty crop, but you’ll leave a key part out of the equation if you don’t consider the yield and production costs.

To understand big picture oversight and overall direction is important for success. That is the rudder that helps steer your ship each day and over time.

2. Make a decision and pull the trigger. You may have all the skills and knowledge, but a lack of decisiveness will slow you and your business down. Your decision-making process may include consultation and communication with other folks like accountants, bankers, agronomists, etc., who bring specific knowledge to your team. Your ability to listen, learn, synthesize, process and communicate effectively is critical to good decision-making.

Some managers arrive at their decision by gathering data and analyzing it, and others following gut feelings or experience. Beyond that, decision-making takes courage. Never stop learning from your successes and failures.

3. Adapt and thrive. Agriculture’s constant evolution means that the manager who can change or respond to old and new challenges will thrive. Your great, well-thought-out plan can change in an afternoon, which is why you need a plan B (or C or D) and the ability to shift gears while maintaining control.

While no two farmers or managers are the same, to have the knowledge, skills, decisiveness and adaptability should prove to be characteristics that would make one successful in the management of a farm.

Myers is a farm manager with Busey Ag Services, Leroy, Ill., and a member of the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. Email questions to The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.


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