When is the right time to learn Taekwondo?
Before three guys jump you in a dark alley.
When is the right time to invest in the hardware and operational systems for an irrigation system?
Before the drought sets in.
When is the right time to establish boundaries with your children?Before they get to high school.
When is the right time to forge a good working relationship with your employees?
Before the harvest season kicks in.
When is the right time to upgrade your food safety practices?
Before the government or your customers demand them (and certainly before an outbreak is traced back to your operation!).
When is the right time to talk to the bank about a line of credit?
When you have so much money that you don’t need to borrow any.
Of course, it tends to be when you’re standing there staring at three guys with scowls and big sticks that we think to ourselves, “I wish…”
So much of farming and farm life is about preparation and anticipation – it’s actually something we’re pretty good at, as farmers. When’s the right time to plant lettuce seeds? About ten weeks before you want to pick it. The trick is transferring this understanding to the other important areas of the farm: the business, the infrastructure, and the family life.
This is why I encourage my clients, right from day one, to:
- Keep detailed financial records and create the three annual financial reports – a balance sheet, an income statement, and a monthly statement of cash flows;
- Keep detailed production records, even if you aren’t certified organic;
- Schedule time with children and spouses, even when, if time was measured in nickels, you wouldn’t have two to rub together;
- Write a business plan, even if you aren’t taking it to the bank or investors;
- Put time into training employees – especially supervisors! – even if you are bringing people on during the spring rush.
- Build fences and handling systems that take future growth into account and accommodate worst-case scenarios like floods and overgrown grasses.
(It’s also interesting to note that practice is not just about managing the big scary things – it also has a way of making your business, and your life, better as you go through it.)
What are you doing to anticipate and avert potential crises on your farm?