Build a Resilient Farm Strategy

Finance First

The future of farming belongs to those who respond and adapt to change

Published on: May 6, 2013

This spring has already thrown some challenges at farmers with cold, wet weather where we should be planting. As a farmer, you deal with wacky weather forecasts and volatile commodity markets much of the time.

A lot has been changing in the big picture of farming, too. Think about land prices and break evens and the things you have to know about technology to stay on top. These changes might not be as evident as fluctuations in the weekly weather forecast or in the price of corn, but they are happening quickly.

It seems like only one thing about the future is for certain: change will continue to happen. But it's human nature to build our lives and businesses around what the world is like right now. That can become a problem if we don't see the need to be resilient.

Being resilient means the ability to respond quickly as change happens in the world and in our farm businesses. It means adapting our strategy and being agile – ready to tackle the next new challenge, whatever it may be. It can mean trading in old ways of thinking for fresh perspectives, based on today's situation.

Becoming resilient in our thinking and in our farm businesses is going to make the difference between the farms that survive and thrive in the face of change, and those that get blindsided and thrown off course by it. More and more, the best sustainable competitive advantage we can have is to learn faster and adapt more quickly than our neighbors.

Here are a few ideas to develop more resilience in your farm business.

Invest in a network – this could be trusted advisors, vendors and suppliers. They are the people you can turn to as a board of directors for your farm. Being connected to people who can provide valuable outside perspectives helps you navigate change.

Don't get too connected to specific assets. Every asset that you have, including land, should be something that creates some sort of value for the operation.

Build succession plans for your farm. Decide who your successor will be and help that person develop as a future farm leader. Think about the skills he or she will need to be a successful farmer in the future. Name a successor for each important position on your farm. Even if something unexpected happens to a key player, the farm will have the ability to continue operating with successor leaders in place.

Develop a flexible farm strategy. Creating agile business plans for the farm gives you the opportunity to anticipate potential issues and design alternate plans. These written plans have another advantage – everyone who works on the farm can get on the same page about where it's headed.

In farming, we face change every day. It's part of our business. The real question is how we choose to respond to it. The future of farming is going to be all about those who can build – and adapt – a resilient business.