Editor’s Note: How will farms grow in the 2020s?

On the lip of the 2020s, it’s a question that deserves more than casual thought. And it needs more than one perspective, for there will be more kinds of success than ever in history

April Stewart writes in our December 2019 issue of Country Guide to tell us the proof is in. The more technological and digital a farm gets, the more important its leadership and its soft skills become.

To a degree, it’s no surprise. Technology does many things, and the technology of the 2020s will do more of them than ever before, but technology on its own doesn’t guarantee success.

It’s clear why. Somehow, someone has to decide which technologies to invest in, how to incorporate them into the farm as a whole, and how to know when it’s time for the next jump. You’ll see us write more about jump-shifts this winter, because the conclusion seems inescapable. Technology decisions are going to be more difficult going forward, not less, in part because new technologies won’t always be something that an engineer can bolt onto an existing tractor frame. Increasingly, farms will need to decide when to sell off the old and to invest in whole new systems.

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Tom Button
Tom Button

The technology of the 2020s will sizzle. My heart starts to race just thinking about it. Yours does too, but clearly investing in these technologies may sometimes mean betting the farm on them.

It’s just one more way in which the biggest difference between farms today and farms in 2030 will be the same thing that ties them together. It will be the quality of farm decision-making.

The soft skills that April talks about will be more important than ever, which is one of the criteria we used for choosing the stories in our December 2019 issue of Guide.

I hope “Meet me In the boardroom” will get read carefully. These 14 barley growers in Western Canada are showing us one clear path to success in the 2020s, and they’re doing it by embodying the attitudes that it will take… “fierce independence” as Sterling Hilton says, but also a recognition that if you don’t bring a willingness to share to the table, you aren’t going to be invited inside.

Anne Lazurko’s story “Why aren’t we fighting harder?” is equally crucial to success in the 2020s. Integrating women into the decision-making core of agriculture is among the great opportunities for our farms as we go forward. It’s hard to see that anything will be more important, and it’s also clear that it won’t happen if we don’t talk about it and think it through.

How can we insist on measuring and analyzing and innovating in every area of farm operations, except in the most critical area of all — the decision-making centre?

I hope you’ll also invest some time in reading and digesting Kelly Dobson’s column on farm leadership. In particular, take note of his point that success in the 2020s isn’t going to mean we have to ramp up our stress levels. It’s worth spending some time to think your way through. It doesn’t mean success will be easy, but after reading this, who could want to sit on the sidelines?

Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].

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Tom Button

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine.

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