Profitable Farming by John Mason
In a world where markets, technology and climates are changing as never before, it is not enough for today’s farmer to do things as they have always been done. But change need not be bad news. Profitable Farming shows that for the farmer who is willing to think laterally and has planned ahead, there are many new opportunities for making money from the land –whether by changing the core business of a farm or simply diversifying for extra income and security.
Profitable Farming features a comprehensive survey of new enterprise possibilities, but more importantly, it explains why change might be warranted and how to change with the minimum of risk.
Topics covered include:
specialized crops and livestock;
reducing costs through self-sufficiency and energy conservation;
long-term planning and management of resources;
value adding to produce;
dealing with degraded land;
working with climate change;
John Mason is a qualified horticulturalist, the founder and principal of the Australian Correspondence Schools and is author of many successful gardening, farming and horticultural books published by Kangaroo Press. He is also author of Sustainable Agriculture published by Landlinks Press.
How to Keep a Farm Profitable?
A modern farmer needs to think laterally, plan long term, and minimise business spending on non essentials.
If farmers are to deal with problems better in the future, in the words of Baden Powell, they need to "be prepared".
Planning involves preparing for problems before they happen.
To plan successfully, you need to be able to see what is likely to happen before it happens. In a rapidly changing world, this is an increasingly difficult task. Often we can't be certain of what will happen until it is about to happen. However, this is no excuse to avoid planning.
Despite the future being uncertain, it is possible to make a relatively educated guess at what is likely to happen. Sometimes you don't know when something will happen, but you do know it will happen sooner or later (eg. drought, running out of money, etc).
At other times you may not be certain of market changes (eg. growth or reduction); but you have a basis upon which to guess the future.
The distant future is always harder to predict than the near future.
Planning is all based on probability. You need to try to determine the likely outcomes of alternative actions and then select the actions which are most "probable" of giving you the best results. If you are going to plan the future of a farm or hobby farm, you need to try to forsee the future.
A WAY OF THINKING
Farming has been a very traditional and predetermined way of life for centuries.
Consequently, most farmers have naturally been relatively conservative/safe in their thought processes.
Today successful farmers need to be more innovative than in the past; not just prepared to change, but they need to actively chase new ideas and continually introduce improvements.
A successful modern farmer will probably:
-Always try to be different
-Try to determine what competition is likely to do,
and introduce innovations before everyone else!
-Be a lateral thinker (ie. Be able to perceive a problem from a range of different
perspectives in order to devise original & innovative solutions)
ONE WAY OF THINKING A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY
Farms have always been product based industries (ie. They make their money out of producing a product such as milk, fruit, meat, vegetables, or grain).
They have sometimes partially processed their products (eg. a dairy farm separating cream from milk); but rarely to a stage where the product is ready for retailing. Some farmers do go the extra "value added" step (eg. A small town butcher using his own stock).
A financially struggling operation may be able to increase their economic viability by turning their attention towards deriving more income by processing their produce, or by providing income generating services such as farm tours or accommodation (eg. Farm stay).
ANALYSE THE MARKETPLACE and THE INDUSTRY
If planning is to be effective, it is essential that you are familiar with changes and trends in any relevant areas of the industry.
This is usually achieved by being continually vigilant about maintaining awareness:
a/ Be Aware of your own property; in particular keep good records (eg, records from the past on weather for a local area).
If you know what has happened in the past, you have a basis upon which to predict what is likely to happen in the future.
b/ Be Aware of your industry
Developments in your industry are beyond your control; but knowing about them sooner, will enable you to adapt faster and reduce any negative financial impact (or optimise any financial gain).
eg....subscribing to trade magazines, attending shows, field days, associations/societies/clubs, internet, radio/TV shows, department of agriculture, etc.
b/ Be Aware of wider Global Developments
Farming today is affected by industries beyond Agriculture. Decisions and developments in politics, science or economics, amongst others, can result in rapid and dramatic changes to the viability of agricultural enterprises.
It is imperative to stay abreast of local, national and international news. Listen to the news daily on radio or TV, buy and read at least weekend newspapers, and perhaps follow developments on the internet. Some trade or professional associations are also good at monitoring and informing farmers of potential future impacts of developments in such areas.
Today's world is changing fast, and will continue to change. Anyone in any business (agriculture or otherwise), needs to embrace this change as opportunity. Change can be seen as something always coming along to defeat what you have established (which is how some farmers see it); or as something new always coming along to provide you with fresh opportunities. Success is often a matter of which of these choices you make.
If you like this e-book you might also be interested in ACS Distance Education's Farming courses here.