I was reading another blog that I follow, and there was a posting about a seminar. In the pitch for the seminar, Rebecca Thistlewaite made two statements that caught my attention.
"...Our business has grown by an astonishing 3,500% in 5 years — ridiculous, I know! — but somehow we have yet to see a net profit at the end of the year."
[of course your business is growing -- you're selling goods at a price lower than the cost of production. Freebies are really popular!]
"...Am I in the wrong line of work, or do we just need to learn how to get better? Since we are not ready to give up yet, I vote for getting better at what we are doing: that is, more profitable and fewer-than-80-hour work weeks."
[the solution for not making a profit is to get bigger, work harder and longer and lose even more?]
I'm going to skip over the seminar, if you want to read the pitch, you can here, but I want to focus on those statements.
First, at some level, farming isn't different than any other business. You have costs, goods you produce, challenges in producing those goods, inventories, taxes and books. There's a misperception that somehow farming businesses aren't really businesses. That by virtue of being a farm somehow you're immune (or should be immune) from the normal challenges that any business faces. I just don't get the view, but it's' mostly folks who seem to want some sort of magic solution. Maybe having a seminar will help us produce the magic solution. I like a party, too!
My suggestion? Enlist the help and viewpoint of someone who understands business and can, from that viewpoint, analyze and suggest different ways to do things, and often for free. I suggested SCORE.
"...Now, I doubt a SCORE retired businessman who doesn’t understand agriculture would be able to reverse these trends that even expert agriculture economists can’t figure out. But I do think we can learn from each other and from the handful of farm businesses that are thriving and making a profit. "
Wait a sec -- someone with training and experience in business cannot understand agriculture? Only people in agriculture can have any possible, useful input into a business which happens to be in agriculture?
That's a pretty standard sort of response. Dismiss data or input that doesn't match your own viewpoint. Even if it's free. Why can't people experienced in business understand agriculture? Aren't most of the farms by sales volume run by people with business experience and expertise?
What I see is that people who get into farming after having the experience of running some other small business tend to be more successful at making their business a going concern than those who don't have that body of experience. Selling products you produce is a business, whether it's trucks or turnips. If you cannot make a profit, which is a standard business problem, and you've run out of ideas, getting someone to take a look with a fresh viewpoint might be just the ticket to solve your problem.
Rebecca also made the point that farmers income averaged $15,603 a year. I don't know where she got her numbers from, there's no attribution, but when I looked it up here I didn't see that number, but I did notice that farm households, on average, earn 108, 110 or 113% of the household wage average. Farmers earn more than the average income, probably mostly because they work two jobs.
Which, by the way, is what Rebecca does. Her second job is apparently to put on seminars.
4 days ago