As always the concerns of acres of farm/ranch land per the minute are on many people’s minds, as well as the rather “senior” age of the average farmer or rancher. Then there is the matter of decreased number of agriculture producers in the country. All of these statistics are being influenced by the fact that fewer farmers and ranchers are able to run profitable businesses and are getting out of the profession or not encouraging their children to take over the operation. Certainly there are numerous challenges that producers face including challenging markets and weather as well as increasing costs in inputs. But, there are some key differences between the folks who are successful and those who struggle.
A recent article on the Noble Foundation website outlined the 10 key personality traits of a successful rancher. I think these are also true for farmers. Consider which ones are your strong suit and which ones you need to make sure a team member can pick up on or that you can recruit for from your resource base. We have found these same personality traits to be critical for success which is why our trainings are designed to encourage the development of them.
10. Cautious risk taker
We also use the term “educated” risk taker. The idea is that you know the numbers and have considered the social, environmental, and economic issues involved in a decision and run it through the Holistic Management testing questions.
9. Willingness to share knowledge
Nature is far more about collaboration than competition. Holistic Management focuses on how to use your resources effectively. Competition is usually a fear-based response and when you create your holistic goal you are working on the outcomes you want rather than focusing on what you don’t want. This process allows for greater creativity and a focus on collaboration.
8. Have clear, measurable and attainable objectives
Creating a holistic goal is the starting point, but financial plans, business plans, and production plans are critical pieces of an overall Whole Farm/Ranch Plan. Read this article on the Maddox Ranch getting out of $3 million in debt as a result of creating those kinds of objectives and sticking to them.
7. Have a conservation ethic
A conservation ethic starts with recognizing that Nature functions in wholes and you can either work for it or against it. Understanding how Nature functions is critical so you can create production models that work with Nature. Many Holistic Management practitioners have improved their profitability because of that conservation ethic. Check out our Conservation and Soils page to learn more. Remember, Nature always bats last!
6. Big picture thinker
Big picture thinking has to be married to clarity about the fundamental values of an operation. Holistic Management encourages big picture thinking but also ties it to appropriate and effective decisions, action, and plans. It’s easy for a leader or manager to be strong in one type of thinking to the detriment of the operation. Building a strong management team that has multiple points of view can make a huge difference in the function of that operation.
5. Lifelong learner
It’s critical to keep abreast of the latest news in the industry, but it is equally important to know what skills you and your team do or don’t have. Reading, conferences, and training all help. If you don’t subscribe to HMI’s IN PRACTICE journal, consider trying out a free one-year subscription.
4. Have an inquisitive and passionate mind
Again, knowing and articulating the values of your family and business goes a long way to help you move pass the “status quo” doldrums. Consistently we hear from Holistic Management practitioners that some event forced them to learn how to farm and ranch better. Gabe Brown is a great example of someone who turned adversity into success.
3. Understand ecological principles
This trait goes with #7. You have to understand Nature to work with it. It all boils down to how our management practices are influencing the health of the ecosystem processes: the water cycle, mineral cycle, flow of photo-voltaic energy from the sun, and the amount of biodiversity you have. The healthier those functions, the more volunteers you have working for you in the form of microbes, plants, livestock, and wildlife doing work that would have to pay for.
2. Manage the ranch/farm as a business
Many farmers and ranchers started out in the industry because of their love of the production. At HMI we help people learn how to be better business owners so they can be sure those agricultural businesses are profitable and rewarding for them and their families. The idea is to work on the business, not just in the business. With our Beginning Farmer/Rancher Training Program, we showed Full Heart Farm how to do just that.
1. Flexible and adaptive
Darwin’s Origin of Species was thought to have highlighted the idea of survival of the fittest. But he really was writing about how the species most likely to survive were those most able to adapt to change, to be adaptable. Holistic Management has been recognized as one of the best adaptive management tools. Whether you are responding to changing markets and weather conditions or changes in the management team, Holistic Management helps you determine what is the critical components to focus on and the best way to move forward.
If you’d like to learn more about how Holistic Management helps you improve your ability to be a big picture thinker and adapt to changing conditions, check out our low-cost online courses, including the Introduction to Holistic Management class beginning the end of August.
Partial scholarships are available for both courses.
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