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Farm smarter, not harder: The importance of strategic planning in farm management

Goals are an integral part of our lives, whether they are professional or personal. Photo:

Farmers will need to produce enough food to feed nine billion people by 2050, while battling increasingly difficult growing environments due to climate change and being resilient to our ever-changing world.

Being successful as a modern farmer one needs to grab both opportunities and challenges with the same enthusiasm, thereby adapting swiftly to the changes to the immediate and global agri markets. The phrase “work smarter, not harder” is popular for a reason, there is so much truth behind it.

The agricultural industry requires non-stop hard work. Any new strategies combined with a more effective approach may be the difference between success and failure. Farmers who make smart farming decisions can save money, increase their yields, and maximise profits while remaining extremely successful.

Let us take a step back – 2020 has given us the motivation to think about our actions and reflect on what truly matters. Two things come to mind: focus and focus. Success in farming requires an awareness of where you currently are as well as where you are heading. Farmers need to have clear goals and direction to achieve sustainable success.

Strategic and operational planning in farming

Strategic management is known as the combination of all roles to proactively manage the total farming system in accordance with the internal and external environment to achieve the long-term objectives of the farming business.

It is about taking a step back to see the big picture and imagine what could happen in the future. It provides you with the best chance of retaining leverage, preventing severe pitfalls, and making your farming business more profitable by exploring new opportunities.

Thinking strategically about your farming business involves creating a vision for where you intend to be in three, five and ten years. Operational planning entails breaking down long-term strategies and goals into shorter-term priorities and action plans to bring the strategy into action.

A broad declaration of the aim or purpose for your farm is referred to as a goal. The word objective refers to a specific goal statement. Setting goals is an essential part of every agricultural business’s strategic planning process. Farming goals must be developed in direct support of the predicted future and should focus on key performance areas, such as financial goals, growth and expansion goals, sustainability goals, personal goals as well as succession planning to ensure long term supply of products to future generations.

You as a farmer must define your goals clearly enough by writing them down to provide additional motivation, making priorities more explicit and encouraging cooperation from all members involved on your farm. A mission statement directs your farming business’s direction and can be somewhat abstract. Goals are more specific, making them easier to understand and implement. The most important foundation tool for strategic management is the determination of the farm business’s goals and direction, as planning on its own cannot produce strategic vision and direction on a farm where this is lacking.

Your farm’s primary goal, in accordance with personal preferences or values, is referred to as the mission. Your mission should respond to the questions what, who, how, and why, as well as identify core competencies and influencers that drive the vision. It provides responses to questions like “Who does what?” “What are the day-to-day activities that need to be done?” “What are the labour requirements?” and “How can we maximise our resources?” It is also important to ask yourself, “Why do I want to farm?”

“What are the things I want in life that farming will help me achieve?” Long-term objectives are referred to as your vision, also known as strategic intent, and it is an important management tool. The mission and vision of your farm should align comfortably with your personal values.

Strategic management is more than a planning, implementation,
and control process. It is also a state of mind and an attitude.

Strategic implementation tools and setting SMART goals:

An acronym commonly used to describe effective goals is SMART. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely. Many farmers spend their time rushing around trying to get more done while accomplishing very little. Setting SMART goals means you can clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and increase your chances of achieving what you want on your farm.

As a farmer, your goals should be specific and targeted at a single issue or need. Your goals must be measurable, which means you should be able to monitor their progress. You will not be able to accomplish your objectives until you take action. The actions that you take will be the pathway to achieving your goals.

The goals you set must be attainable and realistic. Aim high, but not too high. Keep your goals within the range of possibility. Your goals are only useful if they are current and have a concrete timeframe and a completion date. Regardless of what your goals are and how you choose to organise them, planning and goal setting can be much easier when defining and allocating time frames for each goal. The most common time frames used for goals are a short-term time frame, one to three years, an intermediate time frame of four to ten years, and a longterm time frame of ten years or more.

Strategic monitoring tools:

Another important factor to implement on your farm is having good control systems for evaluation, monitoring, correction, and adapting accordingly. Financial control and monitoring are critical success factors. It is recommended that succession planning for your farm should be taken seriously if the future generations are to be sure of feeding the nation in the future.

Once your farming business aspirations and goals are set, you have already taken the first step to success. Now you can embrace uncertainty, be fearless and achieve the impossible.

Strategic management entails forward thinking, being proactive, focusing
on where you are going and how you will get there. Photo:


1. Fundamentals of Organisational Development Editors: N. Martins, D. Geldenhuys

2. Human Resources Management in South Africa 6th edition Editors: Elbert, Robert Hatfield, Surette Warnich, Michael Carrell

3. CropLife International

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