Peer to peer learning is incredibly useful in any business, and agriculture is no different. Put simply, peer groups allow for the collective sharing of great ideas. Perhaps just as valuable, they also allow for the collective learning of hard lessons, so that peers within a group don’t have to make the same mistakes.
Evan Shout, president of Maverick Ag, says that when farmers see themselves as entrepreneurs with common challenges and problems to solve, they can begin to really leverage the experience of others through peer to peer sharing.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a 5,000-acre or a 10,000- or 20,000-acre farmer, the issues are still the same, there’s just a few more zeros behind the answers,” Shout says. “[A peer group has] literally given a whole group of guys the chance to speak up, the chance to be heard, and have some of their peer group actually who’ve done it before, or who are having the same issues, collaboratively come up with solutions.”
The bottom-line-value of a peer group does hinge on a few things: the willingness of participants to be transparent and the collective commitment to being open to a new way of looking at a challenge.
Shout says it’s not necessary for there to be a leader, per se, and peer groups often work best when there isn’t one dominant personality running things, but having a moderator can be helpful. The key, Shout says, is to provoke thought and questions, not to just jump on the first answer to a problem and run with it.
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