13, 2004: A new year and new opportunities. No one
knows for sure what the New Year will bring. Will the weather
be better than last year? (I sure hope so!) Will it be worse?
What will the markets do? How will my machinery hold up? How
will I hold up?
All we can be sure of is there will be days when everything
goes great and days when everything goes wrong. Days when
we all think “This is why I farm,” and days when
we’ll wonder “Why on earth did I ever think farming
was for me?”
I think that’s why I love to farm. Farming is one of
the few occupations where work and daily life are so co-mingled
that they are the same. The ups and downs of life are all
tied together with the ups and downs of the farm. Hidden in
with all these ups and downs are opportunities for success.
One great opportunity we all share in common is based on
our need for information. While farming can still be as simple
as soil and seeds, it has also become as complicated as running
any business operating in a global market. In order to function
in this complex world we need information to remain competitive.
We can get a good bit of that information by attending growers
meetings, organic or sustainable ag workshops, and commodity-sponsored
conferences. These events are great places to meet other folks
working just like you to bring their products to market and
to farm successfully. Ideas shared at these events not only
add practical knowledge to your toolbox but can inspire and
challenge you to succeed in your efforts.
Here in the Northeast we have events happening just about
every week from early January through February. I know; I’ll
be at quite a few of them myself. We have state sponsored
farm shows. We have equipment shows, horse shows, dairy shows,
beef shows …. We have sustainable ag conferences, organic
ag workshops, and state extension seminars. Not to mention
all the conventional agriculture conferences which also have
great information for growers, ranchers and farmers of all
types. These are opportunities you really don’t want
to miss. You may even want to think about being a speaker
at one of these events. We all have information worth sharing.
This learning bit is a two-way street.
Other opportunities lay in the planning phases of your farm.
Plan for success. Winter is a great time to plan. I guarantee
you that without a plan your chances of running a successful
operation diminish greatly. By the time spring rolls around
we all know the time for planning is gone as the pace quickens
and the focus is placed on action.
We all make plans, running ideas through our head, thinking
this, then thinking that. But do you take the time to write
your plans down, maybe even get them on the computer where
you can store them, make changes, or even print out action
I know one vegetable grower who has his whole greenhouse
planting and transplanting schedule laid out to the day. Each
morning in the spring he or his staff prints out the work
schedule for himself and his hired hands. Everyone knows what
to plant, when to plant it or transplant it, where to put
it and how much to do. He follows this method into the field
operation and his CSA with great success. Everyone knows what
needs to be harvested, how much to pick, when and where to
replant etc. etc. Now that’s planning with a capital
P. I must admit that, while I do write down my plans (on the
computer), I haven’t gone to those admirable lengths.
Your plan really becomes a set of actions toward your goal.
Take time throughout the year to track your progress towards
that goal. Then next year at this time you’ll have a
fairly good idea of what worked, what didn’t and where
changes in next years plans will help. This system will also
point out where information gaps exist and what you need to
do to improve your operation. This constant focus on improving
your farm is no different than any other business.
I hope that 2004 will be a good and successful year for you,
your family, and your farm. If The New Farm® or The Rodale
Institute® can help you achieve that success we stand
ready to do so. Make this the year you plan for success. Take
advantage of those who support your efforts by attending conferences
and meetings. And write back to me and let me know how your
plans worked out as we all look for the opportunities.
From One Farm to Another.