How to shape the future of your farm

In these uncertain times, you have the opportunity to come back better.

When people ask me about the future, they typically ask me the wrong questions. The words many use to talk about the future are incorrect. They ask: How do I prepare for the future? What does the future hold? What will things look like in the future?

It’s as though they think of the future as a single destination. But the future isn’t fixed. The future is not a set point on the horizon that we are all being rushed toward, unable to change course. 

People talk as though we are all traveling to Des Moines, Iowa, together, and we can’t get off the road. How do I prepare for Des Moines? What can I expect in Des Moines when I arrive? The future doesn’t work like that. It’s not a single destination. Maybe you don’t want to go to Des Moines … no offense to Des Moines – it’s a great city! Maybe you want to go to Lincoln, Nebraska, or Wichita, Kansas. 

We build the future with our actions. Individuals, families, communities, and farmers shape how that future will look. Even during a pandemic and recession, we must remember that we still have control over our future and, more importantly, over the future of our farms.

After reading about the technologies and tools in this issue, I challenge you to think differently about the future of your farm. The goal shouldn’t be to simply prepare for the future. Your goal should be to shape it. You have the power to shape your future and choose your direction. In these uncertain times, you have the opportunity not just to come back but to come back better.

The first step is to ask: What kind of future do we want? What kind of future do we want to avoid? Understanding the future you don’t want can clarify the changes you do want to make. 

The new normal that exists on the other side of the current pandemic and recession gives you the space to imagine a different future for your business.

How can you use emerging technologies and practices to arrive at a different future? This moment in time gives you the chance to make adjustments that before might have seemed impossible. These changes will be necessary to ensure the future of your farm.

Beyond technology, who are the people who can help you get there? Part of this is the people on your team and in your organization. What is their vision for the future? These can be hard conversations as the stewardship of farms moves from generation to generation, yet a shared vision for that tomorrow can be a powerful thing.

Once you understand what’s possible and the future you want, then you can look around and discover others who have taken a similar path. Who are the experts out there who can help you move toward your future farm? You’ll find many of them in this issue. When you do discover experts, go to them and tell them your vision for the future of your farm. I think you’ll be surprised at how ready they are to help. All of those who have worked to shape their own future know that others are a key part of making it a reality.

For some, the future can feel distant and unattainable, too far down the track to make any progress. Don’t fall into that trap. Once you have seen your farm’s future, ask yourself what would get you halfway there? What does solid progress look like? Once you’ve found that, then split it in half again and determine what will get you partway there. Now think about what you could do on Monday to get you started. What’s the first step? By breaking it into parts, getting to that future you want will feel more accomplishable. 

Many of the articles in this issue show the possibilities and give you ideas but, ultimately, your vision is the most important one. Only you can know the future of your farm and only you will build it.

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