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Back to school: What are your farm’s partners teaching you?

C. Devan/The Image Bank/Getty Images Instructor in computer class helping a student. Adult learning.
It’s time to ask, “What have I learned from you lately?”

As a farm leader, there are so many different subjects and areas that you must know about and be able to handle. From agronomy to HR management to accounting to equipment maintenance, there’s so much to cover.

Each area has an impact on your operation, but that impact can be different in terms of how it affects the farm, and how deeply. The farm’s leader can start to feel like they have to be an expert in everything that affects their business – and that’s an exhausting thing to believe!

The truth is, no business owner – on the farm or otherwise – can hold all the knowledge that’s needed to lead and manage the farm solely on their own. With the size of today’s farms and the pace at which operations and the global economy change, that’s just not possible anymore.

Bring in the teachers

It can actually be a relief to recognize that you can’t – and shouldn’t – try to do it all yourself as a farm business leader and owner. Simply put, that’s a great recipe for a number of problems that can lead to burnout, anxiety, fear or even depression. Even for farm leaders who love to learn more about different areas of their business, it can be very overwhelming to think you have to find and hold all the answers by yourself.

The alternative? Create a team around your farm business who are very knowledgeable about the areas that have the greatest impact on your operation and its bottom line. They need to not only “know their stuff” inside and out, but be teachers at heart.

The key is that they need to be willing and able to teach you what they know as they work with you. Overall, you, as a farm leader, should become more knowledgeable about that particular area simply by working with them as a partner or advisor to your farm.

Questions to ask

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you evaluate your farm’s current partners and advisors or seek out new ones.

  1. What have I learned from them lately? Is it fairly easy to come up with several things they’ve taught me? If you can’t think of very much that they’ve taught you – particularly if you’ve been working with them for years – then they’re probably not very interested in educating you about their area of specialty.
  2. Are they willing to take the necessary time to educate me further in their area of expertise? Someone who is truly a teacher and cares about your operation will spend more time to bring you education. They want your operation to succeed, and they want you to have to know-how to help make that happen.
  3. Do they seem to be continually learning and educating themselves in their specialty? Someone who wants to be the best advisor they can be for your operation is going to invest in their own development and further education. Then, in turn, they can put that knowledge to work for you and your operation.

Get the right people on your farm’s team – people who go further than providing advice, also devoting time to bring more education and resources to your operation. Our market advisors strive to do this as they work with our farmer clients.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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