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When the farm needs you to lead into the unknown

Three ideas to take action and lead confidently.

Darren Frye

April 13, 2020

3 Min Read
Holly Spangler

Each new year in farming presents farm leaders with “unknowns”. There are many when it comes to the crop your own operation will grow that year. What will the weather be like and how will it impact the crop? What else will happen that impacts yield? What decisions will be made about crop applications throughout the growing season and what impact will they have?

Then, there are also the unknowns of the “bigger,” global picture. What will the U.S. crop end up looking like as a whole? What about production throughout the world? What else is going to impact the commodity markets this year? What will impact the farm with regard to government policies – and politics?

Get unstuck

A farm leader can easily begin to feel overwhelmed when thinking about all these questions and potential situations. And that can make it tougher to make decisions. All of the unknowns start to add up and leaders can feel paralyzed or stuck.

In the spring, it can particularly feel this way, when very little is known about your own crop and the global situation. There’s hope and optimism in springtime, but there can also be feelings of uncertainty that may expand as the growing season progresses.

Know that you’re probably going to have some of these thoughts and feelings during the growing season – basically, that it’s normal. Then, you can work to set them aside as much as possible and look at your operation through the lens of leadership. This means focusing on what you do know, what you can control, and what you can do about it.

Three ideas

  1. What you do know. When it seems like the “unknowns” are stacking up, step back and look at what you do know right now. This needs to involve a detailed review of your farm’s current situation and numbers. You need to know where you’re at so you can make good decisions in all aspects of your operation. Also remind yourself how well you know your operation – for example, how to deal with the different soils you farm, and how different pieces of land produce in different weather scenarios. Sometimes, you find out you know more than you thought you did.

  2. What you can control. It’s key to also separate what you can control in a situation from what you can’t. Often, people become fixated on or anxious about elements that they cannot control – to the point where they neglect to do anything about what they can control. When you encounter an aspect of your operation that tends to bring anxiety, take some time to truly separate what you can control from what you can’t – and then choose to focus on what you can control.

  3. What you can do about it. Once you know what you can control, it’s time to look at the possibilities of what you can actually do about it. This can help with taking action in the situation even when uncertainty and anxiety are high. Be sure to think of the full range of possibilities you could choose from – not just the first one or two that come to mind.

During the growing season – and beyond – one aspect that can cause a great deal of anxiety for farm leaders is the markets and making marketing plans. Separating the unknowns, looking at what you can control and taking action can become easier with the support of a market advisor.

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

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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