Peer groups are certainly not a new concept; in fact, there is research that shows the idea for peer groups took off in the 1930s with the publication of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book is one of the first to introduce the concept of mastermind alliances. Since that time, roundtable discussions, forums, and peer groups have flourished.
What do agricultural peer groups do?
Agricultural peer groups are more than farmers meeting at coffee shops and having “mastermind” sessions. While these can provide some great conversation (and even more gossip), FamilyFarms Group coaches find that these aren’t the type of peer conversations that help an operation and its owner achieve their potential. We have found that meeting in an organized fashion and talking with progressive-minded producers from different regions—away from your local coffee shop—is what gives growers and producers invaluable feedback and new perspective.
How are peer groups beneficial for farmers?
One of the top benefits we hear about our peer groups at FamilyFarms is the opportunity to network with like-minded producers and share ideas. The goal of all our peer groups is to provide that opportunity for producers in a confidential environment. This safe environment allows producers to talk about issues or concerns they may have and receive candid and constructive feedback, providing a trusted support group for members.
Benchmarking is another important reason to join a peer group. While financial benchmarking is done in many different ways in the ag industry, our peer groups also compare you to your peers. Jeff Haferkamp, senior VP of education at FamilyFarms Group, facilitates the General Manager Peer Group. He recently shared with The Progressive Farmer that benchmarking can involve anything “from seed germination rates to storage bin controls to conducting an annual survey of landowners you work with.” The majority of benchmarking in our groups is still financial, and it’s valuable, but we also do other comparisons that producers can learn from.
Peer groups give farmers access to outside analyses of their operations by other producers. Members of our Operations Management Peer Group will tell you the advice they receive from this is invaluable. The advice is based on information collected through on-farm interviews with lead employees from several different areas of the operation that include operations, general, equipment, office admin / HR, agronomy, and continuous improvement. Not only do the host farms walk away with feedback and ideas for improvement, but the other participants of the group also leave with ideas they can implement as well as confirmation of what they are doing right in their operations.
Networking, benchmarking, and invaluable feedback—these are certainly not all of the benefits of peer groups run by FamilyFarms Group, but they are surely the top things we hear in feedback about our groups. We find that farmers spend much time working in their business, but it is just as valuable to spend two days in on-farm/field and classroom-style learning, where you are networking and working on your farming business.