At the end of June, I traveled to Hueston Woods State Park in southwestern Ohio to participate in an agricultural retreat with my fellow agricultural Extension educators from across the state.
Clear my mind
This retreat was a great way for us to gather together to think at a deeper level about the emerging issues in agriculture.
We had some great discussions, especially about some of the hot topics like genetically modified organisms, phosphorus management and avian influenza.
We visited some of the top farms and agricultural businesses in western Ohio, to learn more about what makes their operations successful.
It was nice to pause from the daily grind, as it allowed me to take a deep breath, clear my mind and to think. So today, I would like to share some of the thoughts that bounced through my head during the retreat.
Many of you know that I still make some hay on our farm. I like to do this as 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 cut hay, but the greatest joy to me is just getting the time to think on the tractor seat. Some of my best thoughts and strategic planning have been done on the seat of our TN75 Ford tractor.
Economics are tight in agriculture right now, especially in the dairy industry. When times are tough, it is very easy to just work harder and hope things will get better.
But what may be more important is to step back and think deeply.
Stop and think
In today’s society, it is so easy just to do, do, do and not to think. Are you taking time to strategically think about your business and its profitability?
The Sergay Group Inc., defines strategic thinking as “the process of developing and evaluating every decision and action in light of current and future circumstances, the direction you want to go in and the results you want to achieve. It involves being able to apply possibility thinking to every situation.
“It is not about doing ‘business as usual’ but rather pushing the envelope to see what can be done smarter and what else can be done ‘instead of’, or as an ‘add on’, that would maximize opportunities.”
I find tractor time to be a great way to think, but there are many other ways to create time to think.
One of my friends gets up early every morning before her kids awake to read and reflect.
Another carves the first 15-30 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 required to make his business more successful.
Maybe it is a walk around the hay field 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.
Day of rest
Remember when Sunday was sacred, a day of rest?
Now it seems as it has become the day to squeeze everything else in such as 4-H meetings, grocery shopping, yard work, baling an extra 10 acres of hay or painting the house.
Shouldn’t Sunday be about giving thanks to our Creator, spending time with loved ones and for taking time to hit the pause button? I have been reminded how very important this is over the past six months and it has provided me with a new perspective — one that is full of possibilities and hope.
You will be amazed how refreshed and more productive you will be for the other six days of the week if you allow yourself to step back, relax and to think.
Steal from neighbors
We also need to steal from our neighbors, but not in the way you might think.
On our agricultural retreat, we had a great visit with the Garver Family in Middletown, Ohio.
During our visit, our educator group saw some of the innovations the family has implemented to be more efficient and more effective. I was really intrigued by a cistern they built under their new machinery shed. When it came time to build the new machinery shed, they decided to build it on the site of their old hog barn, which had a manure pit underneath of it.
Instead of filling in the concrete pit, they left it there and built over top of it and now use it as a water cistern. The design of the building allows their roof water to drain down the eave spouts and back under the building into the converted pit.
This allows for over 1,000 gallons of water to be stored for use in their vegetable operation. This has reduced the water bill for their vegetable operation and saved them the expense of filling in the pit.
Farmers are truly innovate people. So how are you at stealing ideas?
A great place to steal ideas is to attend Extension Twilight Tours and Field Days. An example was the excellent tour held recently at the Stoller Organic Dairy Farm in Sterling, Ohio. I was able to attend with two of our Ashtabula County dairymen and we were able to glean some great ideas to improve their operations.
Just keep watching the Farm and Dairy as these events are being held weekly across the region.
To end today’s column, I would like to share a quote from Joel Osteen who stated, “I believe if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you’re grateful, you’ll see God open up new doors.”
Have a good and safe day.
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