Surviving Trying Times in Agriculture
I am a product of the 1980s. I grew up in the rather mild agricultural times of the 70s. 1980 arrived, and things in the ag world turned upside down.
I won’t get into the details of what occurred because volumes have been written about what happened to agriculture in the 80s. Essentially, interest rates went through the roof. Farmer equity plummeted. To make things worse, the drought of 1983 hit us. Turning 20 years old in 1983, studying agriculture in college, and trying to help on the farm—all these factors combined to make this a rather difficult point in my life. Throughout much of the 80s, what we experienced to save our farm was gut-wrenching. Fortunately, we did save our farm and, as I matured, I could look back and see that I’d learned some important lessons about survival in trying times.
Starting a soil sampling and soil mapping company in 1986 wasn’t an easy venture.
In 1986, farmers were starting to pull out of the doldrums of the early 80s, but those who survived were skeptical about trying new things. I knew, however, that with diligence, perseverance, and an unshakeable faith in the vital importance of soil and plant health, I could help farmers grow. As more and more farmers experienced success with soil sampling and mapping, others began to jump on board.
Achieving plant health means taking the emotion out of the equation.
The first thing I learned through helping farmers is the importance of setting emotion aside; good decisions are never made out of emotion. Purely rational decion making can be difficult when you own the business and your income is directly influenced by your decisions, but adoping business-oriented frame of mind is essential to making decisions that will inrease your return on investment. One of those critical ROI decisions is to make soil and plant health a priority.
When it comes to soil and plant health, budget first.
When looking to improve soil and plant health, I suggest figuring out a budget first. Once our clients determine how much money they can spend on inputs, we help them spend those dollars as effectively as possible to enhance soil and plant health. Having good information makes it possible to maximize every dollar to its greatest benefit. It isn’t as important to try to get soils into perfect condition as it is to employ strategies that ensure the health of your soil continues to improve. Perfect is nice, but soil health improves step by step over time.
Challenge the statement, “But this is how we’ve always done it.”
Do you have any “sacred cows"—practices or inputs that you continue because it's how you've always done things? It's important to examine and analyze routine practices over time. Ask yourself, “Do we really need this? Does it make money?” The answers to these questions will be different for each practice or input. Agricultural consulting services can help you to implement best practices to improve your soil and plant health. We serve as a sounding board—someone on the outside looking in who can ask the hard questions and help you leave emotion behind as you improve your soil health steadily over time. With improved soil health comes improved yield, and that means a boost to your bottom line.
To find out how you can improve the health of your soil and plants while protecting the environment and controlling costs, click here to request a free consultation. We'll briefly assess your farm's current state, identify key areas of concern, and discuss how we can help.
Also, please feel free to browse FamilyFarms Group's free library of online resources, designed to help family farmers achieve long-term profitability.