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What’s your definition of a successful farm?What’s your definition of a successful farm?

How you answer this question impacts everything.

Darren Frye

October 10, 2022

3 Min Read
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On the farm, as in any business venture, most of us would probably say that the definition of a successful farm is a financially successful operation. That’s absolutely a valid answer. A farm operation that is chronically unsuccessful in the financial arena simply isn’t going to stay in business for very long.

Maybe it’s a good starting point to say that a successful farming operation needs to be financially successful – that it needs to make money. But from there, what does a successful farm operation look like? How can it be defined?

Unique answers

The answer is going to become a lot more personalized at that point. Since every farm operation is unique, every farm ownership team will probably have a slightly different take on what success looks like for their operation.

So what does that mean for your operation? Does your operation currently have a definition of what success looks like? Being able to answer this for your farm is critical. Without a vision of success, you – and everyone else in the operation – can’t know whether progress is being made toward that vision, toward that success.

Three starters

Here are three ways to start thinking about how to define success for your operation.

  1. The starting point. As I mentioned above, the need to achieve financial success is typically a given – because that’s how a business stays “in business.” Financial success is necessary. But it’s key to think beyond that – into what contributes to and builds that financial success. What are the main pillars that come together to produce success in the financial sense for the farm?

  2. Unique goals. Your operation is unique – it has a unique history, a unique mix of people involved, unique ground, unique side businesses, unique landlords – this list could go on and on. No two farm operations are exactly alike! Because of this, your operation is going to have goals that are different from the operation down the road. These goals will be heavily impacted by the wishes of the current generation of owners – and of any future owners. Is the operation currently growing or not? Is that growth going to involve more acres, more side businesses, or a different growth strategy altogether? Knowing the current goals is going to help define success for your unique operation.

  3. What you don’t want. Sometimes another way to think about this is to consider what we don’t want for our operation. What are some of the things you don’t want to have happen to your farm in the future? What would you not want it to look and be like? It might seem a little odd to think this way, but it can spark some good conversations for the farm’s leadership team and for the different generations that are involved – and lead to productive thinking.

Related:K-State lands $2 million grant to modernize sorghum N guidelines

Get perspective on the market

Related:K-State lands $2 million grant to modernize sorghum N guidelines

One aspect of the farm that also requires clear definition of what success looks like is the farm’s marketing – and many farmers say that grain marketing isn’t their favorite thing to spend time on. Yet grain marketing is one of the top business drivers impacting the level of success that the farm operation can experience.

Farmers have also found that working with 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

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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