We talk a lot about reducing inputs so that the farm or ranch can be more profitable. But how do you figure out what you should cut and what you should keep? Do you have a goal that can provide direction?
For some ideas on that, here’s a jam-packed 2:13 interview with the Noble Research Institute’s Hugh Aljoe.
Hugh is talking about “Intentional Management.” Translated, that means starting with the end in mind. If you know your goals, or what you want to achieve, you’ll know what to measure to figure out if you’re making progress. Starting with the end in mind is also helpful when you’re working with others, whether they’re family or employees. If they know what the overall plan is, and what’s expected of them, they can help you more – even making decisions that improve how they do their jobs that can be beneficial to the operation as a whole.
One of the questions to ask when you’re figuring out your goal is “What fits best for your resources, your skills?” In this case he gives an example of how using available resources could lead to a decision to background calves to increase profit. The bottom line: be proactive. Identify your goals, track how things are going, and adapt as necessary.
But Wait! There’s More!
If Hugh has inspired you to start thinking about your goals, but you’re a little put off because you’ve been through “visioning” and “goal-setting” before and it was SO painful…let’s see what we can do to make it more fun.
First, let’s start with a more relaxing environment. If you like sitting at a desk and pounding away at a computer, and you find yourself creative and inspired there, that’s fine. But if you don’t, choose something else. Take a walk, sit in a pasture, sit around a fire at night with your favorite people and your favorite beverage. Let your mind relax, and don’t take yourself too seriously. You don’t have to figure it out in one day. It takes some time to think deeply.
Now that you’re a little more relaxed, you’re ready to consider some questions. Think about your quality of life, what you need to produce to make that happen, and what the future looks like to sustain you. For example:
Quality of Life
What is important to you? What do you value? Do you want security? Adventure? Good relationships with your family and community?
Here’s an example of how this might help you: My friend, Jenn Colby, knew that she could produce poultry to bring in income for her farm and family, but she really didn’t like working with chickens. It didn’t add to her quality of life. Once she acknowledged that, she dropped them, just like that, and focused on what she loves to raise – sheep and pigs.
What do you need to produce to create and maintain the quality of life you want? Building good relationships with your family and community might require effective communication. Security might require a reliable income.
Here’s an example from my own life: I like baking – pies especially. There was a time in my life that I was considering baking pies and selling them to make additional income. Fortunately, I did the math first to figure out how many pies I’d have to bake and how much time it would take. I would have to spend so much time baking that I’d have no quality of life at all. In fact I probably would have ended up hating pie.
What will sustain production and your quality of life far into the future, and for future generations? Include your community, landscape, and resources (education, money, good reputation). Keeping your neighbors around might require economic viability and a healthy landscape that will help your community endure.
At this stage, just focus on what you want, not how to get there. People argue far more about how to achieve goals than what the goals should be. Besides, the best way to get what you want will probably change over time, and you might have to experiment a bit to find out what works.
Once you have a goal you’ll be much better equipped to make the decisions about how to get there.
What I’m describing here is just a small part of the Holistic Management Decision Making Framework. We’ll be sharing more in future issues.