Create a competitive business plan for your farm


Originally published in Smart Series Vol. 5 Issue 3

Nearly every farmer has a business strategy or plan for their farming operation. But often, the plan stays in the head of the farm leader. It isn’t shared with others in the operation. Family members, employees and even vendors are left not knowing what’s next for the operation—or where to focus.

The key is to create and share a written business plan that gets everyone on the farm on the same page. You only get to plant and harvest about 40 to 45 times in your life. If you’re going to farm for that many years, and you spend ten of those years with no particular aim or goal, you’ve used up one-fourth of your opportunity by not having a plan. Your plan helps you ensure the operation is moving in the right direction. A written business strategy provides the direction for the rest of the activities that happen on the farm—both short- and long-term. It lets you take a proactive approach, rather than dealing with each crop year as it arrives.

Perhaps your business plan and strategy weren’t written down before—but there weren’t as many people involved on the farm. With the increasing growth and complexity of farm operations, creating and following a written plan is more important than ever. To be successful going forward, farming operations are going to need written business plans. Farmers who do that will be well-positioned for the future in this competitive environment.

Strategic path to success

  1. Determine the core values of the operation. What do you stand for? What values are non-negotiable for you and your operation? Your core values create the basis for all of the other decisions that you make on your farm.

  2. Get clear about your farm’s purpose. This is your vision for the farm—describing why the farm exists.

  3. Consider the mission of the farm—what are you trying to do in your business? Are you going to be the best livestock producer? The best grain farmer? Will the farm work in both grain and livestock?

  4. Use your vision, mission and core values to set specific goals for the farm. Bring in key members of the operation to help with these decisions. What are your objectives—in yield, in profit, in enjoyment of farming? Your farm goals should be aligned with what you’ve already determined—why the farm exists and what you’re trying to do in your business.

  5. Think about how you’re going to measure your progress in the goals. Remember the old adage: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

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