Monday, March 22, 2010

Progressive Thinking



Spring has arrived, according to the calendar, and farmers all over the Northern Plains are finishing plans for the 2010 crop.

This past week, Farmer Fred had the privilege of visiting with outstanding farmers, Wayne Ordahl and his wife Judy. Wayne and Judy farm with their family in northeastern Montana. The warm hospitality provided by Judy and three plus hours of visiting, mostly with Wayne, caused Fred to evaluate this business of farming.
So what makes an outstanding farmer? He has a passion for progressive thinking. In farming, like other industries, operators can fall into the trap of doing things the same old way. Farmers like Wayne recognize that change is certain. They know that the same old farming methods won’t improve results. Farmers who want to see better results year after year must be progressive in their farming practices. Outstanding farmers are constantly asking themselves, “What’s next?”  This question applies to every facet of their operation. 
The plains were broken with oxen and horses powering the equipment needed on the homestead.  We still measure the power of our tractors, trucks and combines with a tribute to that pioneer method when we say, “horsepower.” The days of horses pulling  plows or grain wagons are gone. Thank goodness! In those days a single farmer fed about 10 people per year with his work. Each farmer today feeds hundreds. How did it happen? Technology, equipment development, and a passion for doing things better have made this possible.
This historical view confirms that today’s solutions will not solve tomorrow’s problems. So how does a farmer decide when it’s time to change his equipment?  Like other outstanding farmers, Wayne is always looking for a better way.
Progressive thinking means asking:
Can we do that on our farm?
Can this improve our ability to grow a profitable crop?
Can we be more efficient?
Can we get more done in less time?
What’s the likely payback of this investment?

Farming, like every business, has a finite budget for investment in what is new. Farmers must prioritize. They read, study, attend farm shows and ask questions to learn what’s new. Some respect risk and innovation. These are the farmers that will be leaders in finding a better way. They'll experiment with new crops or crop rotations. They will research, educate themselves and adopt new technology as quickly as possible. These farmers force themselves outside of their comfort zone and off the path of farming the same way as last year. The drive to find an improved method has made it possible to feed many instead of few. It has taken progressive thinking and the courage to change.
Progressive farmers like Wayne Ordahl are never satisfied with today’s accomplishments.   These leaders ask,  “What’s around the corner?"  And by the strength of their will make the world a better place.

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