September 26, 2021

Frye: Seven things that worry farmers most

It’s no secret to anyone leading a farm operation or who knows they’re on deck to be the farm’s next leader: There’s a lot of responsibility on a farm leader’s shoulders. Most farm CEOs have been farming for a long time, maybe even their entire career, and truly want to do the best they can.

Farming is “in their blood.” It’s their passion: they’re passionate about the ground and the people and what they do, and they want to make sure the operation continues on beyond them, into the future. They know there’s a lot riding on them and the decisions they have to make.

Losing Sleep?

I’m thinking here about the “big” decisions. These are the decisions that impact the operation and the people in it at a far-reaching level. These decisions are usually big in both financial impact and in determining the future direction of the operation. They’re the types of decisions that sometimes can even determine whether the farm will go on to the next generation.

Often, these types of decisions can be overwhelming and can cause a farmer to lose sleep at night. While it’s good to think major decisions through carefully, there’s a fine line between doing that and overanalyzing. Nobody wants to lose sleep about their farm, but sometimes it seems like gaining peace of mind around major decisions can be a challenge.

‘There also seems to be a fine line between overanalyzing a decision and making a decision quickly based only on a gut feeling and then regretting it later. Both of those approaches aren’t ideal when it comes to the decisions that impact the operation in a big way.

Seven Big Ones

Here are some decisions many farmers say tend to worry them the most. Then I’ll share three techniques and ideas leaders can use to help lower anxiety and gain greater peace of mind.

  • Business direction of the operation.
  • Marketing plans and decisions.
  • Buying and/or renting new ground.
  • High-dollar farm equipment purchases.
  • Transferring the operation to the next generation.
  • Major capital purchases (buildings, bins).
  • How to hire and who to hire.

Three Strategies

The things you worry about most may or may not be on the list above, but whatever your greatest worries about your operation, consider these three strategies the next time you find yourself confronting one.

  • Dive into the numbers. Getting the right data about any major decision that you need to make for your operation is a key first step. Without timely, up-to-date financial information about your operation, making decisions becomes far more complicated and difficult than it needs to be. The numbers might confirm a gut feeling you already had about the decision, or might bring to light new information that you need to consider. Either way, good numbers are crucial.
  • Create a process for big decisions. One idea that can help take some of the stress and anxiety out of decision-making around major decisions is to create a specific, step by step process that you and others in your operation use in making those decisions. The process helps ensure that the right considerations are made and the right people are consulted or asked to give input, every time.
  • Talk with someone else. Speaking of input, hearing the perspective of another person who knows your operation well, who you trust, and who understands farming can be very helpful. Whether that’s your farming partners, a spouse, peer group member or trusted lender or advisor, they can serve as a sounding board for ideas and provide feedback from another angle. The input of a third party can be especially valuable, as they don’t have the emotional investment in the operation that say, a spouse or business partner would.

One of the major areas of decisions farmers find most worrisome are around making marketing plans and decisions. Many farmers find the three techniques above to be very helpful when it comes to the markets, especially the chance to talk with another person about ideas and plans.

Our team of market advisers provides farm leaders with insightful perspective around marketing plans and decision-making. You can get in touch with us for more information or get a free two-week trial of our marketing information service, MarketView Basic, at www.waterstreetconsulting.com.


Darren Frye

Darren Frye

Darren Frye is president and CEO of Water Street Solutions.