Ian Evans farms a 390ha hill country sheep and beef farm at Matahuru in Northern Waikato alongside his wife Kirsten and children Connor and Lucy. He recently joined the Mid Northern North Island Farmer Council and has a strong passion for the agricultural sector and its future prosperity. Ian shares his insights into the importance of having a good team around you – officially and unofficially.
In my experience, it is important to have a few people in your life that you can turn to for advice, irrespective of the farming or economic environment.
It can be an “official “member of the team such as a farm consultant, accountant, banker or other professional who you pay for time and advice. These members of the team play an important role particularly with larger farm business decisions such as policy changes, expansion or capital expenditure.
From time-to-time it is valuable to have a second set of eyes, such as a farm consultant, look over your business. They will make sure you are up to speed and are disciplined with your monitoring. They are looking for information to help you make better decisions, so the more information you have available the better, this could include pasture covers, stock weights and up to date sales and purchases.
By having a second set of eyes coming into your business, you make yourself accountable. You need to have up-to-date business information and details ready.
In a way you benefit twice from having a farm consultant visit, once from their advice, secondly from forced discipline with monitoring and record keeping.
The other members of the team are what I would call “unofficial”, these are people who you may have regular contact with who can offer advice in times of need.
In my team I have a former employer who acts as a bit of a mentor, a mate who was a farm consultant turned full-time farmer, and my parents who are experienced farmers. These people probably don’t know they are in my team, but we keep in contact and talk about farming (and other topics!) and the issues of the day. It’s a great way to bounce ideas around and it is a two-way street in information transfer.
I get a lot of benefit from just talking to these people and more often than not, something will come up in conversation that can be the start of an idea that ends up being implemented on farm.
During the current drought, I was talking to one of my “unofficial” team members and he mentioned that he was using a tow-behind urea spreader to apply urea to parts of his hill country farm that were growing pasture. This got me thinking and we decided to do the same thing instead of using a helicopter.
Another example was using three-wire electric fences to subdivide paddocks to extend rotations to try and build covers coming out of the drought – so this afternoon’s job is to put up the three-wire electric fences I’ve just purchased!
In reality, it doesn’t matter who you use or in what capacity, what is important is that we talk to people who can offer guidance, words of wisdom and advice to help you through challenging times.
As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved”.