There are reports of varying snow-melt, and some non-forced bulbs are greening and blossoming. For some farmers, harrow discs are prepped and traveling across cropland. Winter tools are receiving their final moments of use, while the reverse routine continues with spring farm tools. The sharpened tools used recently to prune orchard and berry crops have already been used in spring work. The blankets kept on hand if needed in livestock barn ‘maternity wards’ have already welcomed new life with additional warmth, and have been washed and put to use again in the first weeks of spring. There are so many tools in the farm toolbox, and a place and purpose for every one!
The seemingly quick welcome to the second quarter of the calendar year is also a time when Ag service providers might meet with farmers to take a final look-over 2017 farm financials. Perhaps these meetings took a workday’s worth of time from respective food, farm, and forest producer businesses. This pause also provided a moment for taking some notes, and making sure the 2018 business goals are on track.
No matter the size of the farm, goals matter. Goals are another helpful measurement tool in a profession where there has always been tremendous effort. They can provide some organization for busy people–such as farmers and businesses–who need to find ways to be well-informed, even if they can’t be in multiple places–like the farm and the service provider’s office–at once.
Agriculture, unlike widget production, can require some patience and flexibility in the midst of production work, which is why it is important to keep the right tools in your toolbox. The right tools can be used for seasonal, and routine, efforts for agricultural stewardship, and routine maintenance of the agricultural business plan.
Getting Ready, Stay Ready: Tools in the toolbox
The abundance of information, how farmers process it, and then provide the highest quality product to their customers can go hand in hand. There are many tools to provide a frame of reference month to month, quarter to quarter, and year to year for farmers. These tools have a common theme…
You get what you measure!
Farming is unpredictable in many ways. The opportunity however, is to have the right tools in the toolbox. Not all tools are in the barn or workshop, but they can still help farms of all types, sizes and duration of operation use measurable information to make decisions and plan for the future of the farm. Measurements, and thoughtful responses to the results, help farmers properly steward of the land and animals, and promote quality, Maine-grown food.
What to Measure, and How: What you can easily see around the farm
Some things around the farm might be more easy to measure. Farm records and measurements (made with tools like a notebook and a calendar, a thermometer, a watch, and a camera, for example), can help a farmer better recall planting and harvest schedules, records of daylight hours, weather, animal birth dates, payment and sales dates and amounts, and a variety of stewardship and husbandry details. These simple tools used to easily >>observe activities<<. Even for an untrained eye can provide measurements–in the form of timelines and deadlines to help with planning and goal setting.
What to Measure, and How: What you can’t easily see–but will help farmers know and grow
Equally important and part of the farming balance, are activities happening at levels that might not be visible to the naked eye. Nonetheless they are measurable. For example, the quality and yield of value added products, like cheese or fiber for textiles, can be measured with scientific tests. Their quality can be impacted for better or worse by the processes that happened minutes or months prior to becoming a Maine-made, award winning cheese or garment. The health of the soil, which can be >>measured with a soil test<<, can impact the quality of food an animal might eat >>measured by a forage test<<, and thereby the quality of end product, be it >>food<< or >>fiber<<.
What to Measure, and How: What you can see when you look at the plan, and back again
If you did have a recent meeting with a >>local Ag service provider<< about 2017 financials, and goals, then perhaps you would already be looking at important business measurement tools. There are many things to measure in agriculture, and businesses. From your business planning to routine tasks, it’s also important to evaluate and revisit it. Take a look at these resources to help guide you as you look ahead at the remaining weeks, months, years and generations. Be sure to put it on your calendar to evaluated and revisit the goals, and the plans!
Working S.M.A.R.T.E.R.–because you already work hard
Measurements and the right tools in the tool box can help Maine farmers provide quality products to customers, and thereby achieve farm and business goals–particularly Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based, Evaluated, and Revisited (S.M.A.R.T.E.R.) goals.
The Ag Resources Team is ready to connect you with partners across the state to help you set goals, identify benchmarks, and encourage the effort to work S.M.A.R.T.E.R. –because we already know that if you’re working in agriculture, you’re likely already working hard!
The “get real. get Maine!” program is a marketing resource for Maine farmers and food producers to promote sales of Maine food and farm products. The program is administered by the Agricultural, Resource and Development (ARD) team, whose work aims to ensure that agricultural businesses remain profitable and sustainable.