Setting up an advisory group for your farm

If you surround yourself with great people, you’ll do amazing things; and ultimately, an advisory group should take some of the stress out of making the right decisions when running a farm business.

If anyone knows the value of incorporating an advisory group into their business, it’s Terry Aberhart. He farms 16,000 acres near Langenburg, Sask. along the Manitoba border, and has been involved in the operation for about 20 years with his parents.

He also operates Sure Growth Solutions, an independent agronomy business, helps his brother Dan at Aberhart Ag, and together they co-host a podcast. With this much on his plate, an advisory group is just one more tool in the toolbox for managing his farm businesses.

During Farm Management Canada’s virtual 2020 AgEx Conference Aberhart shared how his family set up the advisory group about seven or eight years ago with the goal to surround themselves with people who could challenge them and lift them up.

“It can be a challenge to make the right decision if you find yourself in a position you’ve never been in before, or you don’t have the knowledge or training,” says Aberhart. “In the simplest form it was about making sure we were making the best decisions that we can and making that process easier for us on the farm as a leadership team.” (Terry Aberhart and Bernard Tobin discuss the advisory group in this video interview. Story continues below.)

Farms are typically family businesses, and it can be a struggle to separate the business from the personal.

“It’s normal to have different opinions in business about what you should do, that’s normal and healthy. It can become stressful and a little unhealthy when those disagreements or different views of opinion may be with family and more emotion may get involved,” he says. So by bringing in an advisory board and that outside perspective, blind spots can be identified. Better yet, having diverse range of backgrounds in the mix ensures decisions are made based on best practices and that there aren’t too many “yes” people in the group.

There was some hesitancy at first, since the first impression of setting up an advisory board is that someone will be telling you what to do, notes Aberhart. But after working with another farmer and attending some conferences, Aberhart reached out to his network and sought out people that the farm had strong relationships with and shared their values, he adds.

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