number hell

I think that a lot of beginning farmers think two ways about the business aspect of farming: either it is a totally confusing number hell for them, or they are way too confident and they think they can sell everything they grow without a single worry. I don’t think either of these approaches will get you anywhere. I think, as usual, the middle ground is where we find some sanity.

Yes it is good to be confident in your numbers, but you have to have something, sales for instance, that backs up your confidence. Yes it is bad to be overwhelmed by the onslaught of numbers flying all around you, but instead of giving up you should have a healthy respect for the chaos of life and business, and try to makes some small sense of it all, in order to get a grasp on what you need to do next.

There are so many aspects of business that it is hard to talk about one aspect without starting to talk about another. In farming, this is all complicated by the biological aspect of what we are trying to accomplish. On our diverse farmstead this is all further complicated by the fact that we farm animals and plants. The only way to get a grip is to become myopic, taking in one thing at a time. It’s like when you try to clean house, you can’t just look at it all because you will get overwhelmed. You just start on one small task and go from there.

I admit, I enjoy cleaning when I am in the mood. I love accomplishing things, getting things done. But sometimes I am too exhausted to give a damn. Sometimes I get totally overwhelmed by the magnitude of lives that are under our care, or the huge list of tasks to be done in the week. But then it’s time to get the nose to the grindstone. Get focused and you will get somewhere, no matter what happens.

Numbers can be overwhelming, but they are just simple representations of reality. Wrapping your head around the numbers will let you know if you are going down the right road or not, at the very least.


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