A Successful Farmer
February 12, 2024
I asked this question at our annual meeting this past week. What is the definition of successful farming?
While there are obvious benefits to being a farmer, such as being with your family, producing your own food, etc., for the sake of today’s discussion, let’s define successful farming as these three things:
- Producing food as medicine;
- Being profitable enough to make a decent living;
- Passing on the farm in better condition than when you bought or inherited it;
To be exceptionally successful, a business has to focus on the customer. What are the customer’s needs, what do they want, and how can the business achieve those needs? Yes, the business has to be profitable, otherwise it won’t be able to continue serving its customers. But very rarely is profit the mission – the goal for which the company was founded for. The goal should be to serve – to fulfill a need.
Farming is no different. Your job is not just to support your family, but a successful farmer is one that looks at the bigger picture. The goal is to serve. The goal is to produce food of exceptional quality. Yes, you need to support your family. Yes, you need to be profitable. And the successful farmer will also want to pass on the farm in better condition than when he bought or inherited it.
Regenerative ag can achieve all three of these. Your job as a regenerative farmer is to steward the ecosystem – the life in the soil. To be a successful farmer, you have to get life into your soil. When you get more life into your soil, you get more life into your crops and the food that you are producing.
Where do you start?
- Try to understand that the life in the soil has the same basic needs as we do: oxygen, water, food, and a good environment.
- Try to understand that it all starts with photosynthesis. For photosynthesis to occur, you have to have plants in your soil. These plants will then capture sunlight, use water, and produce carbohydrates – all through the photosynthesis process. These carbohydrates are the food source for the life in the soil. And you have to have life in the soil in order to have good soil structure – breathable soil.
- Try to understand that everything you do will have either a positive impact or negative impact on your soil life. Life is not static – it doesn’t remain the same.
- Try to understand how your management practices influence the soil life – for better or for worse, and use that understanding to make informed decisions.
- Try to understand the impact tillage has on your soil. Sometimes it’s good – sometimes it’s too much.
- Try to understand the impact that harsh chemicals have on the ecosystem.
- Try to understand that the biggest change you can make is changing the way you see things, and the way you think about them.
- Try to understand that it is not about doing everything right. We are not that smart – none of us. It’s about bringing more life to the soil than we take. It’s about slowly and surely moving in the right direction. It’s about holding the vision even when the going get’s rough.
- Try to understand that it’s not about you, but about bringing honor and glory to God, the Creator.