Farming is a unique skill set, wear it with pride

I was recently asked if I thought a group of an accountant, mechanic and an agronomist could farm. While I think they would get a crop in and off, it would be done poorly compared to those with the title of farmer. Why? You need to understand tradeoffs and the nuances of timing and what is important when. When you are siloed in your skill set, much of this nuance is lost, reducing performance. I have seen it firsthand in corporate environments.

If the accountant were in charge, they would have them focused on monthly reconciliation when you should maybe in the field. If the mechanic was in charge, everything might have to be operating exactly as it should before it goes to the field and stopping for oil changes when you are trying to get a crop in or off before a rain. If the agronomist was in charge, they might focus on having exactly the perfect planting conditions to maximize yield, running of out planting season if they never come.

The truth is the answer is somewhere in the middle. Now if you had the farmer, aka the CEO organizing these people, the outcome might be different, and on larger farms where some of these roles might exist, I feel that is the case.

From my experience the best farmers have a sense of urgency and drive, enough knowledge of agronomy, equipment, and accounting to know when they can do it themselves without impacting day to day operations. They know when they should hire help, as they cannot know everything. They also understand the big levers that impact farm performance.

What am I getting at? While anyone with an operating line and land can try their hand at farming, it is this innate sense of what to do that makes one successful. And that comes from completing the act of farming more than anything else. There is no perfect recipe book. The vocation of farming cannot be reduced to tasks and replaced by its parts. I believe it is a standalone profession, not a mix of disciplines.

Jonathan Zettler