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Toban Dyck: Formalizing weekly meetings

The owners at Burr Forest Acres settle in to a new Saturday morning routine

Things were weighing on us. We were both carrying stress related to the farm and we were doing so in silence. I was busy and used that as an excuse to put aside the things that needed our attention.

In November, it all came to a head.

I went first, expressing all the things that were causing me to fret. Then it was Jamie’s turn. We had recently incorporated and there was some paperwork that needed to be filled out. “I’ll get to that shortly,” turned into a white-noise phrase I’d repeat every time I thought about those papers. Our first land payment was almost due. There was also a spicy fertilizer bill staring us in the face and taunting us. And then all the other stuff: trucking fees, custom applicator invoices, taxes, crop insurance and more.

I don’t yet have our farm’s cashflow needs completely dialed-in. This will happen, but it still feels new. And, between you and me, I’m prone to turtling when I see a large bill. I recoil. If I were a betting man, I’d say it stems from my university days when I would routinely choose a pizza sub over my hydro bill. That was a long time ago.

We all have bills to pay. It’s not the point of this column to argue that our situation is novel. It isn’t.

It felt good to list the things that were causing us stress. Doing so rendered those things weak. But the real game changer for our farm and our stress was our decision — which we made right then and there — to meet on a regular basis to talk all things related to Burr Forest Acres.

The two of us committed to meeting every week to discuss farm operations, crops, agronomics (as much as we are able), bills that need to be paid, bills coming down the pipe and anything else that gets added to the agenda.

Holding weekly meetings

This may seem strange. It’s just the two of us in our house. Why would we need to formalize something that could just happen naturally, say, over supper?

Well. If we don’t make a point of setting aside time to talk about the farm, specifically, it’ll be easier to watch TV or work in the shop.

We know that on Saturday morning, before anything else happens, we will prepare the papers, letter, forms, bills or invoices, so that we have as much information as possible to come up with a plan for each item on our agenda. We bring our laptops to access accounts or make spreadsheets. By the end of these meetings, we each have a list of tasks for the week.

This was not my idea. Nor was it Jamie’s. I’ve heard many people over the years talk about how important it is to have regular meetings on your farm. I know that I’ve written about it in this paper. Each time, I would get inspired then re-inspired to implement this strategy on our farm. But then I wouldn’t do it. It became an “I’ll get to that shortly” kind of scenario.

After our first meeting, I’m pretty sure we chuckled to ourselves. We were amazed at the positive power such a simple thing could have. It has given us confidence in our ability to run a farming operation and filled us with optimism for the possibilities surrounding Burr Forest Acres.

We’ve met every week since then. The meetings have begun to include more than just farm stuff. They’re still focused, but we’ve found that these dedicated gatherings are a good forum to discuss and/or strategize over life’s heavier decisions.

These chats ground us. They clear things up. They’ve freed mental space for thinking about the intangibles related to our farming operation — considerations such as the vision, mission and strategic direction of Burr Forest Acres.

Our farm’s portfolio is light. But it has become complex enough that these kinds of meetings were needed.

Many things in life aren’t that tricky. In lots of cases, it just takes doing them. I was sorry we hadn’t started these meetings sooner. But that’s not a healthy attitude. I’m happy we have found a good rhythm for running our farm and managing the stresses. We sleep better now and, you know, we find ourselves looking forward to the next meeting.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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