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4 signs of a healthy farm

You’re smart, but you need to be healthy too.

Business owners and farmers love to be smart. We spend most of our time on the “smart” side of the business. When we go to seminars we tend to focus on becoming even smarter on the smart side of the business. Smart is what makes us experts in animal and crop production. Smart allows us to maximize rate of gain in cattle, pursue new markets and analyze mountains of data to find trends. Smart keeps our eyes firmly on those things we can observe and measure: Yield, rate of gain, soil health and cover crops. But smart only gets you so far.

To take the farm to the next level you also need healthy. We aren’t talking about the latest food craze nor are we talking about heart healthy exercise programs. To make your farm healthy, you need the soft skills of managing people, a clear vision and the ability to make hard decisions around important topics. These abilities can either break a farm or take it to unimagined heights.

What does a healthy farm look like?

  1. Common vision shared by all. A healthy farm has a clear, written vision of where the farm is headed. The employees are shown how they fit into the larger goals and vision of the farm.
  2. Right people in the right spots. A healthy farm focuses on helping their employees be successful. A healthy farm realizes that when employees are successful the farm is successful. Thus, a healthy farm ensures they only hire the right employees and then make sure they are in the right spot to use their natural talents.
  3. High levels of trust. A healthy farm has high levels of trust when employees and owners can openly share successes and challenges with one another. A healthy farm is a place where it is safe to screw up. It’s a place where good people make mistakes, but it is seen as a learning experience. Employees on healthy farms ask for help when they need it because they will not be belittled, berated for ignorance or ignored. Rather they will be taught, coached and mentored.
  4. Healthy and vigorous discussions around important topics. Unfiltered, white hot, personalized conflict is seldom good. However, the absence of conflict is also a sign the important topics are being avoided. A healthy team will passionately discuss important topics without damaging relationships. The root of the problem is discussed; not the symptoms. Decisions are made once and for all. A healthy team will identify the real problem, discuss it - without politics - and make a decision. The solved problem will allow them to tackle another problem. Too often farms get bogged down in endless discussions around the same topics. Healthy teams keep moving.

So, what is possible with a healthy team? Lon Frahm and many others have focused on the healthy side of the Healthy+Smart equation with great success. The difficult part of healthy is that it is hard to measure. It’s hard to quantify employee engagement, employees working where their talents are greatest, where the conflict is positive. It’s hard to measure a high trust team that is laser focused around a common vision. But when farm teams are healthy the results are visible to everyone.

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

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