The real way to engage farmers - ignore it at your peril!

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Posted by Brendon Walsh on 21 September 2016

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Check out the increasing recognition of change coming down the Agricultural industry pipeline. Many reports and new work being done highlight the need for farmers to be more tech-savvy with wider access to technology and greater connectivity. New technology abounds. The chorus requesting easier access to capital and more smart rural service start-ups is becoming a cacophony. And rightly so! The changes heading our way and benefits available from those changes are clearer than ever. We must embrace those new systems and technology that enhance our ability to deliver fast, efficient solutions for better business and better results.

Unfortunately, we have a similarly growing chorus of service providers and industry leaders lamenting the slow pace of technology uptake by those who have the most at stake and the most to lose in the industry – the farmers themselves. I attended a technology discussion event around the time of the National Fieldays that expressed this exact scenario. There was a lot of excitement about opportunity, much worry about the lack of capital available to tech businesses requiring under $5m, and puzzlement about the lack of technology uptake by our farmers.

The question clearly emerges: “How do we build the capability and desire of people so they will WILLINGLY go on and uptake technology, use it well and create advantages from it for themselves and their industry?”

After all, if we don’t improve this part of the equation, the great and necessary strides taken in those other areas of industry development will count for little. There really seems to be a “people gap” and it’s getting wider. How do I know? I have watched it getting wider for the past 30 years.

Farmers are generally getting told the same things. “Get your production up. Run more ewes. Increase your stocking rates. Inject more capital in and expand. Get your succession plan done. Don’t be afraid to pay for good advice. Renew X% of your pasture every year.” The list goes on. Many farmers have heard this stuff for years and tried much of it. Despite this, their results aren’t generally improving, let alone keeping ahead of the changes.

Wouldn’t this point to the fact that doing more of what hasn’t worked before now, won’t work after now either?

Yes, the above suggestions will be necessary at certain times. Knowing when to use that advice is very important. But perhaps the way we are going about it (engaging farmers) is the issue. What if the way we are trying to push them down certain paths to spend their money and getting them to do certain things is not actually helpful at all?

Rather than seeing them as opportunities to sell technology to and extract income from, what would happen if we saw them as real people with the ability to choose and use systems and technology that are relevant to them achieving what is most important to them and their families? What would our approach look like then? How would their interest be piqued? What would their engagement be like? I would hazard a guess that you would see fired up people who would sell themselves on the right systems because they have definite reasons for engaging and taking up technology – their reasons!

In reality, I am not guessing. I know this for a fact. Fourteen years of coaching farmers to be the best they can be and putting the systems and support around them that enhance their latent abilities as business owners and profit decision makers has proven it. I see families fire up and passionately work together when they used to just exist together. I see individuals step up and be strong in their convictions about what is most important to them and how to achieve that. They get focussed, shed the rubbish, get over themselves and get on with it. Previously, they would just roll over and accept their lot in life as “that’s all we can really do (sigh).”

I suggest we closely examine our industry ingrained assumptions about how we have always engaged with farmers, and change our perspective. They will willingly engage if treated with respect and are “worked with” instead of being “sold to.”

Ignore this approach at your peril. Embrace it and you will have loyal and passionate partners who will do what it takes to create real results! Then, uptake of technology won’t be the issue. It will more likely be what to do with the spare cash flowing into farming businesses. (Sigh) What a high quality problem to have…….

If you are curious about how the GrowFARM® System can help sheep and beef farmers generate the profits they really want, contact me here.

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  • Why are we farming? What do we want to get out of our farm business? Who makes the decisions in your farm business? Have you asked yourself these questions? Do you ever check when you are being sold or up-taking new technology if this piece of advice/product will meet your needs? Are you confident you will make a profit ? Do you have the tools to decide this?
    Before I entered the GrowFARM system I tried heaps of cool stuff, did all the modern farming practices but still couldn't make a profit every year! I knew there had to be a better way! 12 months ago I met Brendon and we started our journey with GrowFARM....I now have the tools and confidence to step up as a business owner and make the right decisions for our business! Now all the cool stuff and ideas goes through a process before becoming part of our profitable business!
    Do you want to make a profit every year?

    Posted by Mel Bradley, 25/09/2016 11:58am (4 years ago)