As farmers across the country churn their way through this winter’s virtual meeting season, here’s a proposal for adding a useful (and profitable) bit of debate.
It’s way past time for more farm groups to start investing a slice of their research budgets into exploring the business questions that will be crucial to their members’ success in the near and mid-term.
This goes far beyond lobbying Ottawa for stronger risk management programs, or providing more market information to farmers, crucial though such measures truly are.
Farm groups throughout Canada have an impressive track record of using their research budgets to initiate projects that have proved incredibly valuable to their members.
In fact, words like “impressive” and “incredible” fall short of describing the wins they have achieved, ranging from genetics to pest control to just about every aspect of sustainable farm production.
That “just about” is important, though, especially as we head further into the 2020s.
What are the great challenges ahead? Many of them will be in the field and in the barn. That’s true, of course. But another thing is equally true. If our farmers are going to remain internationally competitive in a fast-changing world, and if they are going to thrive in an environment where more and more dollars hinge on their every move, they will need to navigate their farms through a labyrinth of investments, business decisions, legal structures and more. And at every turn, a wrong choice may prove devastating.
Ag business research is woefully underfunded and under-resourced in Canada, especially compared to what farmers have at stake.
As writer Anne Lazurko says in her “Managing more, working less” in the February 2, 2021 issue of Country Guide, every farmer is grappling with the challenge. How do they spread themselves thinner and thinner in an ever more complicated industry without reaching a point where they are overwhelmed and the quality of their decisions begins to suffer.
But where is our research to help them? Where are the innovative new options for how to expand and diversify, where are the new HR theories, the new rental strategies, and the new ways to find and assess opportunities? In other words, where are the answers to all the questions that the faculties at Harvard Business School study for other industries to keep them competitive?
There are more potentially profitable questions than any of us know. So here is a modest proposal. Why not move at your district or national meeting that your board liaise with college and university researchers, and then meet too with Farm Management Canada and others so they can report back to the general membership on what the top opportunities might be.
Let’s explore ideas with our ag ec departments. Let’s create a business research strategy. It’s called taking charge.
Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].