Five Steps to Accomplishing Goals on the Farm
Whether you are dreaming of becoming a farmer, a beginning farmer or you have been farming awhile, goal setting is usually high on your list of things to do. The day to day farming chores and the constant to-do list keep you very busy. However, goal setting is critical to a successful farm.
If you read my blog because you desire to become a farmer or you are a beginning farmer, I am delighted you are here. Unfortunately, farming isn’t always fun and it certainly doesn’t always go smoothly. Farming has grown me in ways that I didn’t think possible, but it has been worth it. It can also help you to grow as a person too. I would like to tell you a story about what farming has taught me about diligence. Hopefully, these five steps will help you develop diligence on the farm or in whatever area you require diligence.
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Today, I wanted to quit farming. I really did. It was one of those days where everything went wrong. My husband had the day off from his day job, so we were going to “catch up” around the farm. I put “catch up” in quotes because, really, there is always more to do on the farm and you are never really caught up.
The plan for the day
- My husband and two sons were going to grind two batches of feed for the cattle while I caught up on laundry and dishes.
- Then my other two sons and I would separate heifer calves from bull calves and put the heifer calves in a holding pen.
- All of us would then vaccinate heifer calves and put them in a different pen.
- Then, all of us would complete all the daily chores early so we could go shopping in the evening.
Easy, peasy, right? Wrong!
Things started out fine and I was able to do some housework. When I arrived at the pen of calves I realized that it was a greasy, icy, slippery mess. It is early spring. The weather has been going from thawing to freezing. Winter has been particularly difficult this year and it is mostly freezing. The heifer calves I was sorting are about 8-10 months old beef calves. They are not tame at all. They have never been handled by us.
However, the heifers are in a pen with 18 Holstein calves of about the same age. These Holsteins have been bottle raised and are quite tame. I soon realized that this was a huge problem. All the Holstein steers were more than willing to sort into the pen where I needed the heifers to go. While the heifers wanted nothing to do with a new pen or me. Basically, it was a mixed-up mess.
We had sorted almost all the heifer calves in the pen where they needed to be. Then it happened. There is a narrow corridor that the calves must pass through to go from one pen to the other. There is a gate that separates the pen. On one side of the corridor is the chicken coop and on the other side is a rock wall with the drinking tank in front of it. One person stands and open and shut the gate. A calf who wasn’t supposed to go through tried to and my son shut the gate just in time.
Then it happened.
Because the snow and ice were so built up next to the tank, he tried to jump over the tank. He ended up in the water tank. He was stuck because the bottom is curved and too slippery for the calf to get any footing. The tank was, of course, full of water. It was probably 15 degrees outside and the tank was probably around 35-40 degrees. If we didn’t get him out soon, he would die of hypothermia. I told my sons to run and get their dad and have him bring the skid loader.
You see, I had not been diligent about keeping the snow and ice cleared away from the gate. It built up almost a foot, making it easy for a calf to jump in. Now one of my calf’s life hung in the balance.
What is diligence?
The biblical definition of diligence is to love earnestly; to choose the steady application in business; constant effort to accomplish what is undertaken; the exertion of body or mind without unnecessary delay or sloth; due attention; industry; assiduity.
I knew I hadn’t made a constant effort to keep the gate and corridor clear of snow and ice. Now I was reaping what I had sown. I had delayed my duty due to laziness.
Being diligent as a farmer is so important.
Here are just a few areas to Develop diligence on the farm
• Caring for animals that depend on you to feed and water them day and night. I have written raising bottle calves here.
• Caring for crops. The crops must be planted, cared for, and harvested at specific times throughout the year. Proverbs 20:4 tells us: “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.”
• Caring for farm waste. Letting manure pile up makes for back-breaking work. Cleaning pens daily is much easier than weekly.
So how do we develop diligence on the farm and in all areas of our life? It isn’t something that comes naturally for most people.
Five practical ways to develop diligence on the Farm
- Have a brainstorming session every month of your farming goals.
- Prioritize and categorize your brainstorm list.
- Make a daily to-do list of tasks and stick to it.
- Keep a calendar.
- Record a short end of the day summary.
I have developed free worksheets to develop diligence on your farm. Sign up for my newsletter to receive these worksheets.
Let’s break down the list of five practical ways to develop diligence on the farm. These five practical steps can be used for any goals, not just farming goals.
Step one is to sit down and have your first brainstorming session. Many times as farmers we are putting out fires and not taking steps to reach our goals. Brainstorming helps you remember your passion for farming and what you want to accomplish your long term goals. Don’t limit yourself during these sessions, just dream and dream big. Here are some ideas to consider during your brainstorm session.
- What is my vision for my farm?
- Where would I like to see my farm in five years?
- How can you make your farm more profitable?
- What are my short term goals?
- What is the next step to reach my short term goal?
- Which chores need to be addressed within the next week?
Do not limit yourself to these questions. They are just a springboard to help get your ideas flowing. The first brainstorming session will be longer than the subsequent brainstorming sessions. Schedule a brainstorming session about once a month. As the seasons change, you will think of new things that need to be accomplished.
2. Prioritize Goals
Now, it is time to prioritize your list. If you want to accomplish your long term goals, you must prioritize them. You can develop your long term worklists from your brainstorming list. I categorize my brainstorm with three letters:
U = Urgent
H = High Priority
L = Low Priority
Then further prioritize the list by ordering them from most urgent to least urgent. Then I make a list of all the urgent items in order of priority. Under each project, I list the first three steps to completing the task.
Many times farmers get stuck in the daily grind of chores and do not get around to doing the important tasks that will accomplish your long term goals. Breaking down the long term goals into steps makes the goal less overwhelming and attainable.
It is not necessary to break down all your goals in one sitting. Just get steps listed for the top 5 priorities. Do not overwhelm yourself with too many lists.
3. Develop To-Do Lists
After you have broken down your goals into bite-sized steps, now add a few steps to your daily to-do list. A to-do list is very helpful to remember everything that needs to be accomplished. It is easy to become distracted by the tasks you see as you go about your day. The to-do list helps you stay focused on the task at hand.
It is also a good idea to keep a shopping list with your to-do list. As you go about your daily tasks, you will need supplies. Developing a shopping list will require fewer trips to town due to forgetting supplies.
Get an early start on projects by completing one small step for each project per day. Don’t make your list too long because keep in mind the to-do list doesn’t include daily chores. So if your to-do list seems short, there is still a lot to do.
4. Keep a Yearly Planner
The next step is to keep a daily planner or calendar for the year. With so much do to on the farm, keeping a planner will help you remember what needs to be done throughout the year. A planner is also a good resource to review in future annual planning.
Keeping a daily planner can:
- develop good time management skills
- help you plan for such annual tasks: such as taxes, planting, calving season, butchering, and crop harvest.
5. Record a short end of the day summary each day.
Jot down what task you worked on and what was accomplished for the day You could record this on your daily planner. It can also serve as a diary.
Recording what was accomplished on a daily basis will help you stay focused Routines will begin to develop. You may also see what is wasting time or preventing you from accomplishing your goals. You might need to eliminate some extracurricular activities. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some downtime away from the farm. You should! Farmers need to have fun too. Just be intentional about your extracurricular activities. Determine what recharges you and eliminate the things that drain you.
A Happy Ending
Back to the calf in the water tank. My husband arrived with a strap to place around the calf’s belly and the skid loader. I had to put my arms in shoulder-deep to get the strap around a splashing, panicked 600-pound calf. I was wet and cold. We attached the strap to a chain and the bucket of the skid loader. We were able to raise the calf out of the tank and put him in the barn to warm up and dry off. Thankfully the calf survived with minor cuts and a healthy fear for the water tank. A happy ending!
However, the calf easily could have drowned or frozen to death due to my lack of diligence on the far. I have included in my goals to redesign our water tank to prevent future accidents. We plan on adding a board over the opening of the tank with a small opening for drinking. This is a project that should only take an hour to complete. It will greatly benefit our calves. I also will be diligent to keep the snow shoveled around the tank.
How about you? What goals do you have for your farm or other areas of your life? How will you reach those goals? I hope these five steps will help you focus on your goals and break them down into bite-size steps to accomplish them.