It’s no secret: Every single farm operation faces challenges. The challenges might be factors that aren’t directly under anyone’s control, like weather and prices. And then there are the challenges unique to each operation – related to the mix of family members and personalities, or the physical location of the operation.
Every farm is also bound to encounter challenges from the current operating environment, as Farm Futures executive editor Mike Wilson pointed out in this blog post featuring data from Farm Futures’ most recent survey.
As he also noted in his post, there seemed to be a huge range in terms of how farmers responded to the challenges and roadblocks their farm faces. And I agree that, as Wilson put it, “One man’s roadblock is another man’s opportunity.”
Flip the script
By choosing to focus on the opportunities that can lie within the biggest challenges, leaders can reframe the situation, honing in on chances to get better. For example, viewing tight margins as an opportunity for the farm to become more efficient is a way to take the situation and put it to work – especially in the long-term – to your farm’s advantage.
It could mean a farm leader recognizing that they’ve been upping their management game and skills over the past few years. They’ve responded to the major challenges not with despair, but by working to enhance their business skills (check out the Modern Farm Business podcast for a simple way to keep doing that).
This might mean a farmer getting really good at financial management, knowing they are looking to grow their operation as additional family members come back. It might mean being ready to take action when the right land opportunities come up – because those opportunities will likely arrive over the next few years.
The farmers who will benefit are the ones preparing right now – the ones looking at the challenges of the downturn with a view toward the future and the opportunities that may come.
As a leader, which camp are you typically in? Can you find the opportunity within the challenge? Sometimes it takes a bit more intentional time and thought to help recognize it. One way to get a closer view is through a tool called a SWOT analysis – you may know businesses and organizations that do this.
Once work in the field slows down, I’d challenge you to set aside a couple hours to conduct a SWOT analysis of your operation. Divide a writing surface into four quadrants by drawing a vertical line down the middle, as well as a horizontal line across the middle. Write ‘Strengths’, ‘Weaknesses’, ‘Opportunities’ and ‘Threats’ – one word in each quadrant.
Then take the next hour or so to brainstorm, along with other key people in your operation, what that looks like for the current state of your farm. Try to spend a bit longer time in the ‘Opportunities’ section than feels comfortable. Dig deep. Challenge yourself and others to think creatively about opportunities. Go back to the ‘Opportunities’ section after going through the ‘Threats’ section – and try to generate more of them from the threats that were listed.
Prioritize your farm’s opportunities and start a plan of action steps toward achieving them. You might enlist the assistance of a business advisor for the farm to help stay on track toward those goals.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.