‘Pretty versus productive’ on the farm

The way you answer this question can make a major impact on your bottom line.

As we lead our farms, it can be easy to get ‘stuck’ in our minds around the way we think things ought to be in our operation. When we get wrapped up in this, we could even make a decision that actually has the opposite effect from what we really want.

One debate that a farm leader can become wrapped up in is ‘pretty versus productive’. This is often a conversation in our minds – or maybe out loud with others on the farm – about the choice between what looks good on the outside, versus what gets the job done effectively and efficiently, but might not look quite as good.

The problem starts when the desire to look good or to make something look good gets in the way of being productive or getting things done effectively. Many of us have heard the saying, ‘Perfect is the enemy of good.’ While reaching for excellence is smart, there are areas where always striving for perfection can backfire.

Your biggest goals

Did you know that many of the most productive fruit trees are those that don’t look ‘pretty’? They look nothing like the textbook illustration of what a fruit tree should ideally be, yet they get the job done. It’s often the same way with some of the most productive, efficient farm operations.

One farmer lives this out in the way he manages his row crop operation. During recent past years of high prices, he didn’t buy the newest, shiniest equipment or put up the best buildings and bins, though his operation was doing well financially.

He managed his operation carefully, building his working capital and equity. He wanted to position himself well for the tougher times he felt were surely coming. It didn’t mean he didn’t invest in assets for his farm. He just tried to be smart in how he went about it.

For him, that meant buying used equipment that still functioned well and got the job done. He tried not to let the pull he felt toward the ‘pretty’ stuff get in the way of his biggest goals: overall efficiency and productivity, plus steady growth in acres.

Do a check-up

Because this farmer knew his main business goals, he was able to make choices that aligned with them. He may not have had the best looking farmstead or equipment, but at the end of the day, he sure had a nice-looking balance sheet.

As you lead your operation, have you noticed any ways that you’ve been impacted by the ‘pretty versus productive’ debate? In what areas of your operation do you think this may be most likely to happen?

Think of a few ways to build in more focus on what you really want for your farm. What are your main business goals? You might brainstorm with a farm business advisor about ideas for your operation.

Read the new issue of the Smart Series publication, bringing business ideas for today’s farm leader. This issue features ideas on preparing for land opportunities, thinking ahead about retirement, how to keep pace with the changes of the 2016 crop year, and more advice for farm leaders. Get your free online issue here.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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