ONE FARM TO ANOTHER
Planning for success on your farm
Jeff knows one farmer whose planning is so refined that his workers can print out detailed work schedules each morning throughout the season. Most of us don’t need that kind of planning with a capital P, but we all need some … and winter is the time to do it.

By Jeff Moyer, The Rodale Institute® Farm Manager

Jeff Moyer is the farm manager at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm, and has been here for over 26 years, refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems. The farm has over 1,000 organic apple trees, a 3-acre CSA, 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market, and 25 acres of experimental research plots that have been used to test and compare the yield, soil health and environmental impact of organic and conventional systems for the last 22 years.

"It's been extremely rewarding to work at The Rodale Institute," says Jeff. "Working on projects and with people who are having a positive impact on family farm practices, economics, and environmental stewardship is very fulfilling. The positive changes I've seen on our own farm over the years—and farms around the world— convinces me that we're on the right road."

 

How to contact Jeff

Jeff's email:
jeff.moyer@rodaleinst.org

Phone: 610-683-1420

Mailing address:
611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530

January 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 steps?

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.

Jeff