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First Mid Ag Services News

Justin Wheeler, young farm manager to young farmer: farming different from the pack

March 13, 2020

It’s no secret the agriculture landscape has experienced significant advancements over the last 10-20 years.  With more and more information at farmers disposal to base decisions on, it becomes challenging to set yourself apart, especially for young farmers.

The most dangerous four words I hear from the younger generation are “that’s what dad did”, signifying they have settled into a routine they are comfortable with.  The moment you settle in, the guy behind you becomes better.  Continuing to learn and thinking outside of the box are crucial for not only standing out from the pack, but staying ahead.  I would encourage you to figure out a system to consistently implement on farm research in justifiable amounts.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  Looking back through history, many of our greatest break throughs didn’t happen on the first few tries. 

Marketing is another area that we all probably need a few more tries in.  Learning to control your emotions and not hit the panic button when volatility hits is more than challenging.  I would highly encourage you to find a good merchandiser that can help pull you off the edge.  While you have the merchandiser on speed dial, utilize them to implement other contract strategies besides forward selling to help mitigate risk.  If you have on farm storage and close proximity to an end user, make sure to investigate the premiums that come with. 

Know your numbers, whether it’s break even, having a balance sheet on hand, or understanding your financial ratios.  A good accountant becomes an integral part of your operation and decision-making process.  If requested for any type of application, ensure the information is presented in a professional way preferably not handwritten.

The biggest room for growth comes independently from your everyday farm operations.  Find ways to get outside of your comfort zone.  Look for networking opportunities that are going to benefit your operation long term.  If you are looking to grow in acres, you have to get your name out there for people to discover.  There are more platforms and means to achieve this today than ever before.  Undoubtedly, you have the upper hand in the technology space, use it to your advantage.  In a world that continues to move faster and faster, be flexible to change.  When you face a challenge or obstacle that you don’t want to do, instead of dreading it, find a way to learn and become better from it.

Most young farmers I meet with are in a similar place of trying to gain some traction.  In your pursuit of success more than likely there will not be instant gratification, but rather a process taking discipline, hard work, and time.  One of my favorite quotes is “I’ll do today what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t”.  It is a subtle reminder that nothing in this world is given to us.

Feel free to reach out anytime, 217-421-9615 or jwheeler@firstmid.com, I always enjoy meeting young farmers.