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Envisioning your farm’s 2018, part one

Starting in the right place can lead to well-laid plans.

When you think about this new year of 2018, what comes to mind? Is it excitement? Apprehension or anxiety? Curiosity? Maybe it’s a combination of different thoughts and feelings. Or maybe you’ve been hesitant to think about it much at all.

Whatever you may be thinking and feeling about the upcoming crop year, you have the opportunity now to take some time to make plans and envision what you want it to look like. In particular, if you have any worries, fears or anxieties around the 2018 crop year or specific aspects of it, facing things head on right now can be helpful.

It’s often best to see and understand exactly what challenges and opportunities our farm may be facing – and prepare to meet them. As I’ve written before, the sooner you know your farm’s real situation, the better you can take proactive action to impact what will actually happen.

A financial view

This is about first taking some time – if you haven’t already – to get a clear picture of your farm’s current financial reality. To best do this, you need forward-looking accrual projections for the next year – an ag finance advisor for the farm can help with getting these in place.

Starting with reality gives you a solid point to start from as you envision what you want for your farm’s next year. Without that grounding in reality, it would be tough to know how to set realistic goals – the goals that can make the best impact as you set up a budget and parameters to manage toward the results that you want in 2018.

Once you have a firm grip on the current picture of reality and projections for the 2018 crop year, you might find that it’s exactly what you expected. Or perhaps the situation is better or worse in some ways. Regardless, now that you know what things actually look like, you have the opportunity to consider what you want for the future.

Toward the future

To start envisioning what you want for the future of your farm, begin taking a wider view. Ask yourself, and the other main stakeholders on the farm: What do we want our operation to be like in a year? In five years? Ten years? Twenty years?

You might consider things like opportunities for the next generation to be involved in the operation, or any long-term growth plans. Who will be involved in the operation? In what capacity? Will the farm be involved in side business opportunities? Who will be running the farm at that time?

These are just some questions to get you started. It’s ok to think big at this point. Also keep in mind that everyone doesn’t have to agree about what the future looks like. Use the farm’s values, vision and mission to guide you in thinking about the future. It may be helpful to have an outside third party – such as a farm business advisor – to help guide the farm’s leaders through these discussions.

The farm’s main leader or leaders can take the thoughts and ideas of the other leaders and stakeholders into consideration. The next step is to dive in and make more detailed plans about what the broader vision is for the farm, and how the farm is going to work toward it.

Next week, I’ll dive a bit further into how you can use your vision for your farm to create more detailed plans for 2018 goals.

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

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