Questions and Quotes

At a recent conference, groups of FFA and community college students joined the participants in a “question and quotes” session. The students were asked to engage the audience on topics of interest and then deliver back to me some of the questions and quotes they collected for further discussion. Let’s take a look at some of the questions and quotes the students chose.

What do you think about the future of organic farming?

The future of organic farming is bright. That is, it is promising for the individuals who develop and execute a business plan initially. Next, in this industry sector it is important to broaden your plan to include two or three products or services because like any industry, the competition and outside forces will attempt to commoditize your business, even in organics. Another key point to consider in organic farming is the specific market and consumer. To be successful, one must align with the market or the consumer in specialized ways, which necessitates seeking input and remaining open to new ideas and methods of farming or ranching.

Your banker is always on your payroll!

This was an interesting quote as well as an interesting perspective. Yes, it is important to use your lender in the fullest capacity possible, but the other part of this is one must be well prepared. In other words, one can get the most from a lender only if well prepared with updated financial information. For example, it is not your banker’s responsibility to do your financial statements. Preparing your own financials and then having your lender analyze them is the best way to maximize a lender’s expertise and value. And if a banker or lender invites you to an educational meeting, go and follow through. That is sign of good character and business smarts.

It’s not what you know, but who you know!

I agree with this assessment, but with one caveat: Be a lifelong learner and always attempt to raise the bar for yourself through education. This quote touches on a key principle for success, which is to surround one’s self with the right people in the journey of life. Practicing intellectual curiosity and seeking mental stimulation can deliver one’s business and life to a new level.

Diversification is too hyped; you don’t need a bunch of new and different stuff to run a good business.

There is also an old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” And if you do, you better have a good basket. Whether it is a mutual fund or farming, diverse streams of income can be a real benefit. However, there is wisdom in this participant’s quote in that diversification must align with your goals. Physical and mental resources, along with one’s ability to execute a plan, play a role in the success of diversifying an operation. Sometimes it is not the right plan for the long term.

Be open to new ideas.

One trend I continue to observe among the most successful business leaders is their commitment to education. Specifically, four to eight programs per year is a good goal. In addition, top managers include in their education areas that are outside of their field and beyond their comfort zone.

I was thrilled to observe the youth of today so engaged and thoughtful in the topics they decided to highlight for further discussion. The conference, its attendees and speakers owe those students a big “thank you” for such a memorable and rewarding time. With these youth in training, agriculture has a bright future indeed.