Monday, March 14, 2016

Farming: Chasing your dream

I was making myself lunch in the kitchen and noticed a truck-and-stock trailer on the road in front of my house.  He was going slow and looking, and I live on the end of a dead-end road, so I figured that there was a good chance that he wanted to see me, so with sandwhich in hand I wandered out to the road and waved him over when he was going to pass me on the way out.

It turns out he was a calf jobber - a guy who buys day-old jersey and holstein bull calves from dairy farmers, and resells them to people to raise as steers.  He asked where the dairy was (my farm was a dairy farm prior to my purchase of it) and I explained that the previous guy had gone bankrupt and been foreclosed on, and that I was raising pigs here now.

He lit up and said he'd just gotten out of the pig business; he'd sold his herd just recently because he'd lost the expired milk contract from a dairy processor, and that had been an important part of his operation - without that low-cost feed he couldn't make a profit.  I commiserated with him, and he asked if he could see my operation.  Sure, I said, and we walked back and I showed him the basics of it.

We talked a little as we walked around, his 10 year old son ranging in front of us, and he mentioned that he wanted to move "back here"; apparently he'd moved elsewhere for a while to be with a sick family member, and wanted to move back here.  He'd cut meat, and slaughtered animals, and run a pig operation, and seemed like a pretty capable fellow overall.

As we talked I got a bunch of different impressions about what he wanted to do, but it was clear that he really didn't want to work for anyone; and as someone who is self-employed, i could completely understand the view, and I finally stopped him and said

"You've got a lot of ideas, and you're able to go in all sorts of directions, but honestly, what do you want to do?  Tell you what; go find yourself a yellow pad and a pen, and write on the pad

"This is where I want to be in 5 years"

And then fill in the blank.  talk about what your house is like, or your business.  Or your work, or relationship.  All of that is fair game.  Describe what life is like in five years.

And once you've got the vision down, then think about your next decisions with that 5 year goal in mind.  Once you know what direction  you're going, trying to figure out the next step foward gets easier, and figuring out whether you're going on the right direction gets easier, too.

Farming, business, life - it's worth taking some time and writing down a goal.  In a business setting they might call it a mission statement.   A good goal or mission statement is one that you can look at and reflect on your actions and be able to figure out whether you're getting closer to, or farther from your desired state.

Too many people spend a lot of time talking about what they would like to do.  Are you waiting for someone to give you permission?

  Are you afraid your goal will change?   It might, but a change in goals isn't bad -- but change to focus on the new goal you've found.  If you paddle in one direction for a while you'll make progress, and the magical part of progress is that progress makes for more progress.  As things go your way you'll find doors open and opportunities appear, and if you're clear on your goal, you'll even find people that like that goal and help you get there.

So I couldn't help this guy with calves; I have none to sell, but I could help him with his vision.  I waved them goodbye from my farm gate.

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