That’s a headline from Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland. Their analysis of the impact of farmers participating in discussion groups showed that members grossed the equivalent of about $100/acre more than their non-member counterparts.
Now, just leaving a comment on a discussion board isn’t a get rich scheme. You have to do something with all that information you get. And that’s exactly what seems to be happening when folks discuss. In fact, it turns out farmers who are members of a group are 20% more likely to act on the information gained from interacting with their fellow farmers. That means they try new things that make them more successful.
We like that idea. After all, that’s the only reason we started On Pasture – to help the folks we spend the most time with be a little richer and more sustainable. And that’s why we love seeing comments come in, with folks asking more questions, others leaving great answers and adding their own experiences. It’s a great way for the On Pasture community to learn and grow.
We don’t know everything. We’re just the fertilizer. We spread the nutrients, and hope that it helps. Your comments are important because they’re what will help you and your fellow farmers absorb and use the tasty tidbits we publish each week.
So don’t be shy, leave a comment and get richer with all our On Pasture readers!
Kathy and Rachel
P.S. The only time we don’t publish a comment is if it’s not polite. So if your comment doesn’t appear, and we don’t get in touch saying, “Great thoughts, but can you say it a little nicer?” it means something’s gone wrong with the software. In that case, let us know. We don’t know what to fix if we don’t know there’s a problem.
I used to run the Wisconsin Grazing Conference, a job which I held for seven years, and we would try to bring in some of the best graziers and advisors from around the world, yes, even Kathy Voth. After a few years I started to notice a pattern. The really good graziers were almost always involved in discussion groups regardless of whether they came from Ireland, Argentina, New Zealand, or elsewhere.
Now, those weren’t just groups that met to take a pasture walk, these groups were “closed” groups in that they were members only, because the producers would talk about anything related to how those farms/ranches ran including financial and relational issues. Issues that can be difficult to discuss amongst family let alone with other producers. They needed to know that they could trust one another. Their common creed was, “What’s said in the shed stays in the shed.”
Though it is a challenging, humbling process to go through, the producers who where involved with these types of groups were gaining insights from their peers–the true experts in the business–and from occasional invited consultants, that really helped them out. Additionally, they had the peer group holding them accountable to making changes that they agreed needed to be made.
While it is difficult to take criticism from your peers, one Kiwi farmer pointed out that at least when the group kicked him in the pants, they would also pat him on the back as well. Whereas, the market just seems to kick you in the pants.
One Irish dairy farmer who had been part of a discussion group for over 20 years pointed out how important it was to have a closed member only group that shared financials and measured key performance indicators. He said, “I live near the town of Blarney, so I know what blarney is, and discussion groups that don’t share these things are just a bunch of blarney.”
We discovered that as well, as our organization set up creating discussion groups. Over 13 groups got going, but only two created were closed, member only groups that shared financial information and other pertinent information. Those are the only groups that survived, to this day, over 9 years later, because the members actually found real value in continuing them. The groups have saved some farms from going under–sorry folks, but grazing is no panacea, and even some of the best pasture managers were doing poorly financially–and even spawned some new farms.
You can run a closed group with or without a paid facilitator. It works either way. In fact, one problem some groups have that have a paid facilitator is that if the facilitator quits, the groups seem to fall apart. Either way, it’s worth the effort for most producers.
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