For those of you who are regular readers of this commentary, you know full well how I feel about farm shows in general and what it takes to draw crowds. Every major farm show on the prairies is so heavily focused on production, when we are already some of the best, if not THE best producers, in the world. Where we are lacking (generally speaking) is on the management and financial side of the business.
That is why I am such a fan of the Agricultural Excellence (AgEx) Conference. It is 2+ days dedicated exclusively to management. No presentations on crops, weeds, fertilizers or equipment; although, had there been, we would likely have seen 4-5 times the number of attendees. Overheard during networking at AgEx:”Want to get 1,000 farmers in the room? Show them some new equipment, give them a hat and a hotdog…that’s how!” If that rhetoric has more than a grain of truth, it sustains my railing on on the problem we have in the industry.
The title of this year’s AgEx was “Plan and Prosper: Set the Course for Farm Success.” This isn’t a typical preach from the podium event; the format included live debate, panel discussions, bear-pit sessions, and a choice of six concurrent workshops. If you couldn’t attend in person, it was broadcast via webinar.
Here are some of the very high level points made at the conference:
- As a producer, you sell into a global community. Understand how that affects you (and that means deeper than simple “supply and demand.”)
- If you expect to remain relevant in an ever changing industry, you must face change with confidence not fight it with vengeance.
- There is still a large gap to bridge between the generations who farm together.
- There is a TON of great information, resources, and advice available to you as a producer. All you have to do is ask!
There is much work to do, both on your part as producers and business owners, but also on our part as advisors:
- We (as an industry) need to collectively come to agreement on how to calculate major financial metrics, such as gross margin.
- We (as advisors) need to create synergies with all of our clients’ other advisors so as to better service each client.
- We (as advisors) must elevate and consistently deliver the message that success is defined by management…period.
- We (as an industry) must support each other to provide a unified front against those who would rather we fail.
From the Home Quarter
It is not difficult to find yourself pumped up and motivated when leaving an event like AgEx. The quality of information and networking available is second to none. I rubbed shoulders with a National Director from one of the largest ag accounting firms in Canada, an international farm advisor, a former diplomat, among others…oh, and I now also have a tour guide on PEI in the form of a young potato farmer!
Excellence is within all of us if we choose to focus on it. If we let fear hold us back, our results will show it (and we shouldn’t be surprised.)
As I will continue to say, “Do what you do best, and get help for the rest.”