If you are part of a Business Development Group (BDG), you may be familiar with a requirement to fill in your medium- and long-term farm goals as part of a Development Plan (or roadmap) for the future.
No doubt, this is supposed to be filled in with at least one eye cast firmly on driving your business forward by utilising all latest available fashions and thinking.
Therefore, some of the pointer signs will steer you towards places such as ‘efficiency’, and ‘technology adoptions’.
However, there isn’t really any provision for farmers of a certain age (58, if you were wondering) who are operating in the comfort zone, with youngsters reared, and who are perfectly content with a continuous quest for an easy life. The places we may be looking for on this journey are, ‘more of the same’, ‘that sounds like too much work’, and ‘is there an easier way to do that’.
It’s not that I don’t value forward thinking, latest developments, and innovation. On the contrary, I take my hat off to anyone who increases their efficiency in any way.
I love this phrase ‘roadmap’ within the BDGs, because I have described myself as standing at a crossroads now for a couple of years, and not being sure which way to travel
The point here, of course, is just that a lot of farmers are in the same position as me, whereby some of the drivers in their working lives have been removed.
I strongly suspect that fear of adequately providing for my family was arguably the biggest motivational factor in pushing myself as hard as possible for the last 20 years. But nothing ever stays the same.
I love this phrase ‘roadmap’ within the BDGs, because I have described myself as standing at a crossroads now for a couple of years, and not being sure which way to travel.
When the children were growing up, I took on a workload that certainly made money, but wasn’t sustainable for a one-man band.
The catalyst for change occurred quite suddenly, when both our son and daughter started earning money in secure, full-time employment. I remember asking myself the question, ‘why am I working seven days a week?’, and the dawning realisation was that it wasn’t necessary.
The next issue to be addressed was the thorny subject of time off. If I was financially viable, then surely I could manage life in such a way that there were more than 10 days per year when I didn’t carry out any farming duties.
Unfortunately, that one is still a work in progress, but at least there is a plan hatching – it may take some time to bear fruit.
But the biggest single concern within my farming life can be summed up with one word – pleasure.
I had to remind myself that the sole reason for me becoming a farmer was dead simple – it was all I ever wanted to do
In recent years, I noticed a subtle shift in my attitude to prolonged spells of pressurised work. The buzz and satisfaction of getting through a mountain of work was gradually being replaced by an altogether more negative emotion – stress. And if you combine an overload of work with a lack of enjoyment, the result is simply more and more stress and anxiety.
I had to remind myself that the sole reason for me becoming a farmer was dead simple – it was all I ever wanted to do. It was my work, my hobby, my relaxation, and was my life.
This spring, I made a few phone calls, telling a number of neighbours and acquaintances that I was stopping contract work spreading fertiliser and spraying.
And already I can feel the benefits. To spend the afternoon in the lambing shed when only one or two ewes are lambing (and without having to gallop off to spray 40 acres of Roundup) almost feels like a guilty pleasure.
When I do go spraying, it may only be a couple of fields, instead of a never-ending list. This also has let me recapture the essence of why I chose to farm – because it can be the most satisfactory way of life imaginable.