5 Questions to Ask of Your Farm Business Today


Tuesday nights are pretty important on Twitter if you’re involved in agriculture. Tuesday nights are #AgChat nights — a few hours of moderated conversation on a particular topic of interest for farmers, industry and anyone else interested in agriculture.

Last night’s topic was farm business management. Farmers and aspiring farmers alike weighed in on questions like “Where do you go for business advice?” and “How important is a business plan for your farm?” Responses came from New Brunswick, the southern U.S., Australia and Croatia. Yes, really. (That’s the magic of Twitter.)

Here’s a quick run down of five questions inspired by last night’s AgChat to ask of your farm, farming partners and advisory team today:

1. What does farm business management mean for our farm? What do we need to measure? How will we do it? Get together with all those involved in the farm and start a conversation. One of the quotes from last night comes from Danny Klinefelter — Businesses that hold regular meetings are 21% more profitable. That’s worth your time.

2. Do we have a business plan? If not, how do we know when we’re doing things right, or not? Farmers spend hours pouring over a production plan, as they should, but you need to spend an equivalent amount of time on the business end. A business plan doesn’t have to be daunting; a plan can be very simple. It’s a great way for everyone to talk about their goals for the business.

3. With a business plan in hand and an idea of your management style, where are there gaps in your knowledge or management? Where could the farm benefit from having a professional take on certain aspects (and these may be production issues, as well)? Or, how can members of the farm team step up or develop some of these skills?

4. What is your succession plan? Even if your kids are young and especially if you farm with more than just your spouse, plan for succession now. Minimizing tax burdens may take 10 years or more of incremental sales, gifts or transfer or ownership. As one participant said last night, talking about succession is NOT equivalent to wishing the older generation dead! Say that out loud. Make the discussion positive — this is about planning a seamless transition for the benefit of all involved, not about being greedy.

5. What is your on-going learning and improvement plan? Learn from others. Take part in #AgChat. Comment on RealAgriculture.com farm management posts to get feedback. Attend seminars. Take a course. Learn from others who have done this before or who work very differently from you.

If you haven’t ever attended #AgChat, I highly recommend that you do. Perhaps I’ll see you there next week. And if you’re completely stumped by Twitter, just zip me an email at lsmith at realagriculture dot com. I’ll walk you through it!

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