Monday 28 January 2013

Start Networking with the Farming World don't become isolated!

Start Networking with the Farming world.

There is a new opportunity to network with the farming world. Farming can be a very isolated profession. Farms can be remote. The very nature of the profession means that you are often working alone. It’s that same feature which of course attracts people to farming. Farming gives you the ability to be your own boss and to make your own decisions. Running your own business can be both exhilarating & very stressful.

You don’t have to farm alone or in isolation! Today there are some very good online farming Discussion Groups. Social media won’t ever replace face to face talking with other farmers. However on for example; Twitter forums like #AgchatNZ, #AgchatOZ, #Agchat, #AgrichatUK provide an opportunity for talking to likeminded farming professionals. 
 The Social Media Revolution

OneFarm, the Centre of Excellence in Farm Business Management in New Zealand.

OneFarm has made major changes to their website. By registering (email address & password…it’s free!) you can not only watch live webinars but join an online community of fellow farmers & rural professionals. Once you are registered you will be able to join the discussion groups and even form your own groups.
Register now for live webinars & online farmer Discussion Groups

Develop a sense of positive urgency to change your farm business in a way that makes it more successful & more resilient in what is becoming an increasingly turbulent world.

Rural communities have always had very effective farmer networks. The “Bush Telegraph” is alive & well. Rural communities under threat e.g. bushfires, earthquakes, floods, droughts or snow quickly rally around to support each other. Social media is rapidly becoming the new bush telegraph.

These farmer networks are based on friendships, common interest and high levels of trust. Farmers actively seek & share information from other farmers. Particular farmers play different roles to help a particular person make good decisions. Research I did for my Masters degree showed that we all have a circle of acquaintances (or social network) who we use to help us make decisions.

There is a small group of “Intimates” made up of family & close friends or mates. Intimates play a key role of support & encouragement. It’s highly unlikely a particular decision will be made if there is not support from key intimates. Intimates may be information providers.

Associates or Acquaintances are people you know on first name terms but would not be regarded as a close friend. Acquaintances are used in a different role to Intimates. Their key role is one of validation or cross checking. Acquaintances can be most useful by simply asking searching questions. They will also be trusted as having good information.

Paid experts (The professionals in the outer circle….see diagram) are not particularly well known by the decision maker. Their role is as an information provider. This information will however be thoroughly checked by more trusted intimates or acquaintances before being acted upon.

The “decision maker” is firmly in control of this whole process of information gathering, validation, support & finally making the farm management decision. A point often misunderstood or worse still ignored by Extension staff or Farm Consultants. Top down farm extension programs usually fail because they ignore the “intelligence” of the decision maker.

Farmer decision making:

With the decision maker represented by the inner Circle (SELF) this petal diagram shows who they consulted or sought information from when making a decision about (in this case) dairy expansion options.

Source: Phillips (1985). Phillips TI 1985, ‘The development of methodologies for the determination and facilitation of learning for dairy farmers.’ Masters of Agricultural Science Thesis, School of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Melbourne.

However, making decisions alone can be very difficult. It is much easier if there is someone to bounce ideas off. Farming couples working together invariably make much better farm business management decisions than farmers who work alone. Dairy farming women have a massive contribution to make simply because they often see things differently. Farming males tend to get into routines & don’t always see alternatives.

Farming men retreat to their “Man Caves” when stressed & they stop talking. This can be highly dangerous. Women tend to deal with stress much more openly. Women struggle to deal with men in their “Man Caves”. Talking to others who understand can be extraordinary & hugely helpful.

Beyond blue is an excellent website for farmers under pressure.

  Alison Fairleigh writes a terrific blog about rural people & mental health

Talking to other likeminded farming professionals can have a massive impact on the success of your farm business. Talking to your farming network can make decision making easier, less stressful & more effective. Discussion groups either on farm or online can help you to achieve your farming goals.

Develop a sense of positive urgency to change your farm business in a way that makes it more successful & more resilient in what is becoming an increasingly turbulent world.

Try the new online forums & watch webinars (online seminars) with Farm Business Management Topics 
Register online to watch live webinars and to join online farming discussion groups