Each new year in farming presents farm leaders with quite a few unknowns. What will weather be like in the local area and how will it impact the crop?
What else will happen that impacts yield? What decisions will be made about crop applications throughout the growing season and what impact will they have?
Then, there are also the unknowns of the bigger global picture. What will the U.S. crop end up looking like as a whole?
What about production throughout the world? What else will impact the commodity markets this year?
These questions can feel overwhelming in the spring, when very little is known about your crop and the global situation. There’s hope and optimism in springtime, but there can also be feelings of uncertainty.
Know that you’re probably going to have some of these thoughts and feelings during the growing season. Then, you can work to set them aside as much as possible and look at your operation through the lens of leadership.
This means focusing on what you do know, what you can control and what you can do about it.
1. What you do know. When it seems like the unknowns are stacking up, step back and look at what you do know right now. This needs to involve a detailed review of your farm’s current situation and numbers. You need to know where you’re at so you can make good decisions in all aspects of your operation. Also, remind yourself how well you know your operation, for example, how to deal with the different soils you farm and how different pieces of land produce in different weather scenarios.
2. What you can control. It’s key to also separate what you can control in a situation from what you can’t. People often become fixated on or anxious about elements that they cannot control, to the point where they neglect to do anything about what they can control. When you’re dealing with an aspect of your operation that tends to bring anxiety, take some time to truly separate what you can control from what you can’t. Then, choose to focus on what you can control.
3. What you can do about it. Once you know what you can control, it’s time to look at the possibilities of what you can actually do about it. This can help with taking action in the situation even when uncertainty and anxiety are high. Be sure to think of the full range of possibilities you could choose from, not just the first one or two that come to mind.
Another helpful practice is to take a test drive of your plans for key areas this spring and crop year. This means reviewing each plan and putting it through different potential scenarios, from ideal to downright ugly.
• Your production plans. Production is first because it’s likely top of mind right now. Start with your ideal production scenario and begin considering variations. What will you change if planting is delayed due to wet or cold weather? What are your plans for equipment breakdowns? What if an employee becomes unable to work during planting season? Having a backup plan or even several backup plans is key.
• Your financial plans. This has been an uncertain time for the entire global economy due to the enormous disruption created by COVID-19. Though no one knows exactly how things will play out, focus on your operation’s individual financial picture to prepare for whatever might happen. What are the key numbers and metrics you will be watching this growing season? What do you need to be communicating with your lenders?
• Your marketing plans. Marketing is a key area to test drive different scenarios for your operation. It’s especially important right now, before the crop is grown. Add the heightened uncertainty and volatility across the global economy right now, and it’s probably more necessary than ever. Marketing plans in 2020 will need to be dynamic and flexible, ready for opportunities. You must know your operation’s financial situation and needs inside and out and then plan for a variety of market scenarios. To get some help with that this spring, talk with our market advisers.
Darren Frye is president and CEO of Water Street Solutions.