Take some ‘pause’ time to think about your farm, goals, community

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cut hay

The July 4 holiday weekend is upon us, and I hope each of you get the chance to pause and be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. I am grateful that this year’s celebration will be dramatically different from a year ago. 

One of the most liberating aspects of the summer is that many of us have the opportunity to exercise some vacation days away from work. Many of you know that each summer, I still make some hay on the family farm in Ashtabula County. I like to do this because it gives me tractor time. 

Tractor time may not be what you think it is. Yes, it is nice to hear the whine and power of the tractor’s engine as I bale hay, but the greatest joy to me is just getting the time to “think” on the tractor seat. 

Pause

Pausing from the “daily grind” allows me to take a deep breath, clear my mind and think. In fact, some of my best thinking and strategic planning has been done on the seat of our TN75 Ford tractor. 

In the hustle and bustle of life, it is easy to just do, do, do and not to think, strategize and ponder options for our farm businesses. Of course, there are multitude of ways in which we can create time to think. 

My wife gets up early every morning to reflect and read her daily devotions. Another friend carves the first 15 minutes of each day for non-digital thinking and planning. No meetings, laptops or smartphones allowed. He just pulls out a plain old piece of paper and pen and works through the issues necessary to make his business more successful. 

Maybe it is a walk around the hayfield or through the pasture. Maybe it is in the lawn chair under the Swamp White Oak tree. Grab a pen and notepad, and you will be shocked what ideas you can generate to make your business and family relationships better. 

Earlier in June as I was getting some tractor time in, my mind wandered from managing risk, to community, to life after COVID and then to landlord-tenant relationships. So today, I would like to share of few of these thoughts. 

Management

Manage what you can; mitigate what you can’t. The coronavirus pandemic was a good example that we can’t control every aspect of life. In fact, we as farmers know this all too well from the weather. The forecast can be perfect when we drop the hay, but it can change in a blink of an eye. 

How sensitive is your operation to the unexpected? How much time do you spend worrying about things that you cannot change or control? Whether it is the weather, sky-rocketing input prices, a national pandemic, death, divorce, disability or family discord, how well can your operation pivot in response to the unexpected? 

It is easy to manage when the plan goes according to the script. How ready are you for plan B, C or D? How well do you know your numbers? What would a 10% change in key revenue or expenses mean to your business? 

Recently, we have had the chance to lock in some really good prices for corn and soybeans. Do you have a written marketing plan with price targets that drive your marketing decisions? Do you know your cost of production? 

Higher crop prices can be a temptation not to be detailed in tracking expenses. Make sure to track and monitor both variable and fixed expenses. Set meaningful financial targets for your farm business. 

Community

Keep the unity in community. One of the wonderful aspects of farm life is that farmers appreciate and value what it means to be a community. Farmers have a bond with one another that transcends all understanding. 

One of the things I appreciate the most about farmers is their willingness to help one another. When equipment breaks and the sun is shining, neighbors are always willing to jump in and lend their equipment and time to make sure the job gets done. 

With all the stress in agriculture, it is so important to keep connected with our neighbors, give each other a helping hand, and to be there for each other. The pandemic really impacted many of our families. We need each other now, more than ever. 

So, as you celebrate this holiday weekend, I encourage you to find time to think, manage, mitigate and re-engage in your community. 

In closing, I would like to share a quote from Stephen Covey who stated, “Every human has four endowments — self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom … The power to choose, to respond, to change.” 

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