Last month, I talked about the concept of how we get better. I suggested establishing a team of select individuals (family members, lender, agronomist, breeding representative, etc.) to provide input to your discussions. Remember, these folks are there to help, offer input and make suggestions. They are not there to make decisions but perhaps to challenge you. Do not be offended if they don’t agree with what you thought was your plan. We all need to have an open mind and a willingness to improve our operation and a desire to keep up with the industry.
We live in a new world today than 10 years ago and, in fact, very different than two weeks ago. The world is now a place most of us have not seen in our lifetime and likely thought we would never see in the 21 century. Years ago, I traveled to Germany prior to the destruction of the Berlin Wall. The vast depression, the disappointed looks of sadness on everyone’s face, the imposed anxiety and the military sharp shooters on the top of the buildings on every street corner surely provided a reason for the lackluster society I was familiar with. Once you have experienced that, your viewpoint of what we complain about in this country seems a bit selfish. We have a country which is concerned about our economy, environment, personal health and safety, and the education of our children. Yes, we likely disagree on the means to which we set those standards, but let’s be real. Where have you been in that discussion? Have you been a positive influence or always finding the negative? Have you shared positive or negative views on your favorite social media device? The future of a democracy lies in the ethics and integrity of its citizens and leaders.
Back to farming. Is your farm operation a positive or negative environment? Do your employees have rapid turnover, or have they been with you for a long time? Do you consider them family, as one farm suggested to me this week, or someone you wish would just do their job?
As we prepare for spring planting and crop season, perhaps we can consider some of the following items for an agenda:
Is my farm a positive workplace for all? If not, how do I create that environment? Consider areas of production, financial aspects, business relationships and employee relationships, etc. Have you set goals? Are you comparing to the average producer, or are you comparing your benchmarks to the producers in the top 25%? Are your goals written down, and have they been discussed with farm and family members?
Do you have the right insurance for your operation, and does it include replacement cost? Does your farm have fire extinguishers in every building? Do you have your crop insurance in place for 2022?
Do you have an updated will or trust? Do your family members know what the documents say and where the documents are located? Who is your trustee or personal representative, or power of attorney? Do you have a health care directive? Is there a safe deposit box at the bank, and where is the key? Who is listed on the safe deposit box? Remember, it takes a court order and a lot of time to get into this box if it does not include a family member’s name. Do you have a list of the safe deposit box contents?
Do you have life Insurance and are the beneficiaries up to date? I have witnessed several situations where documents were not changed after a death or divorce. That did not create a positive environment. Is life insurance a part of your estate and transition plan?
As you can see, there are a lot of essential items to have in place. To have a healthy farm and business, all of these should be reviewed on a regular basis.
I saw a shirt yesterday that caught my eye. It said, “Pursue excellence and success will follow.” Wow, what a goal. We need strive for excellence in every facet of our farming operations, in our families and in our society. Excellence is a continuously moving target, which will require us to always monitor and implement steps for continuous improvement.
    Tom Anderson is a Farm Business Management faculty member at Riverland Community College.