I’m trying to spend less of the winter indoors. My wife loves winter and being outside on days cold enough to freeze your tongue to a flagpole. She loves bundling up for walks in our backyard. She also loves bundling up for the 100-metre walk to the garage, a journey I tackle more as a no-toque, no-gloves, unzipped-jacket sprint. The takeaway: she loves dressing for the weather and is smart to do so. I see the value but lack the foresight. Whatever the case, the urge to hunker down in front of the television when it’s cold is strong but worth opposing.
Winter is an effective incubator for great ideas. My father and I have not yet fleshed out a succession plan, but we know the farm must diversify. I draw income from other sources and will continue to do so, in hopes of one day being able to invest in the farm and maybe, just maybe, buy some land. But, in the meantime, my wife and I take to the Internet (Twitter, a reference known to those who read my previous column) and farm publications, looking for inspiration.
Farmers are doing interesting things with their land and resources, and with the help of publications such as this one and other online resources, their success stories are available to us. The skills required to run a successful farm are often synonymous with ingenuity, initiative, know-how and the confidence to get things done. These stories of enterprising farmers are not stories of exceptional people (for the most part), but of regular folk who had an idea and acted on it.
Run a rural-based and rural-themed restaurant, using ingredients grown on your land; build and operate that bed and breakfast you’ve always been talking about; see if there’s a market for the handy contraption you built; find a unique use for lower-priced crops. The advice may seem too simple and obvious to state, but I have met many people who have locked away good ideas over fear of rejection, and, for some, the fear of success. I understand and appreciate pausing for a thought or two before diving into a new business or crop, but don’t underestimate the exhilaration of taking that first step. Business, in general, can be very intimidating and many believe that its inner workings can only be understood by the finest minds. Wrong. Every business starts with a simple idea: “Hey, don’t you think it would be neat if…” That’s it; that’s all.
Perhaps not all of you have the time needed to tackle such pursuits, and perhaps some of you don’t need to diversify, but, rest assured, every one of you is sitting on an idea or two that’s been long abandoned or one that is just waiting for the right conditions in order to germinate.
So, spend the short days outside enjoying the cold weather and the long, winter evenings putting together a plan. Take the time to explore what other farmers are doing and perhaps contact them for advice or a chat. More often than not, in the marketplace of ideas, even those pursuing similar projects enjoy the company of potential competitors. But, then again, all this is coming from someone lacking the foresight to zip up his jacket. So, I promise to plan for my next trip to the garage, however small it is. †