TransFARMation: 10 keys to transforming the way you farm

By Kim Deans, Integrity Soils Coach, Eastern Australia

Are you feeling called to transform the way you farm to create a vibrantly healthy farm business and life?  If so, these 10 keys can help support your mindset on your farming journey. These keys have evolved from my own farming journey which has spanned over 30 years working in agriculture as a farmer and also in coaching and extension roles with farmers.  

“You can’t solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created it” Albert Einstein

Transformation requires a change in thinking.  Changing our thinking can be a challenging process and is why the changes our farms and our planet need from our farmers can be slow to take hold, even though the results possible could result in so many benefits for farmers as well as the planet.  Changing our thinking is cycle of questioning, observing and taking action.

  1.     Remember the definition of Insanity:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.  Considering this, could the way you are farming be a form of insanity?

  1.     It is not how much you have it is always how well you use what you have.

Have you noticed that even when what many farmers are doing is so obviously not working on so many levels they persist with the “more-on” farming approach and simply believe they need to put more on?  Be that more fertiliser, pesticide, debt, or increase the amount of land farmed instead of treating the causes of the problems and looking after and better utilising what they have. Continually overgrazing and spending a fortune on fodder for their livestock every year with no corresponding increases in farm profit has to be insane!

  1.     Make sure your reasons are not your excuses:

It is easy for farmers to find many excuses for their forms of “insanity”.  There are so many factors that impact farming businesses which are beyond our control on which we can place the blame!  Making excuses prevents your farm business from reaching its full potential and holds you back from recognising opportunities.  Blaming the weather, the Government and markets for your woes leads to avoiding focusing on the reasons to change and the tools which you can use to effect change which are within your control – your human resources, your financial resources and your natural resources.

Consider what excuses you tend to make and why you do it so you can see how they prevent you from moving forward.  Do any of these sound familiar?

There is not enough time.

There is not enough money.

I don’t have an education.

I am too old to change.

I don’t know how.

I am not ready yet.

It won’t work.

There is no scientific proof that this is the right thing to do…

  1.     Be Courageous and Overcome your Fears of Change

We can all be inherently fearful of change and our beliefs become a tightly woven part of our identity.  Changing our beliefs feels threatening because we have no framework for how to exist in the world in a different way.   Transforming the way we farm takes big courage to embrace the discomfort, even when the changes required are relatively simple.  Unfortunately making any changes in our lives and/or the way we farm frequently requires a big crisis to motivate us to take the actions required.  Often these changes are born from financial crisis, health crisis or environmental crisis.

  1.     Keep it Simple

The solutions to transforming our farms are amazingly simple, so simple that it messes with the complex belief systems we farmers hold so dear to our identity?

Transforming the way you farm is in essence getting past the fears of change in your head and following your heart to work with nature and restore agricultural ecosystems.  The heart simplifies, the mind complicates.

  1.     Observation is the key to intelligence

Webster’s dictionary defines consciousness as to be awake to our surroundings, to be aware. When we farm consciously we observe nature and farming becomes both an art and a science of working in tune with nature instead of a practise of attempting to beat nature into submission and never winning.  Farmers who observe nature become consciously aware of their surroundings. They observe ways they can simplify their farming system to replicate natural principles, no longer needing to complicate their farming system by using a high input “more-on” approach. There is no one size fits all approach and you cannot copy and paste what works for another farmer and have the same result on your farm which is why observation is so crucial.

  1.     Be the Change

“Be the Change you Wish to see in the world”.  Gandhi

It is not enough to know better, we must do better.  There seem to be plenty of farmers who can talk about what needs to happen but sometimes those talking the most are taking little action in their own paddocks.  Farmers can spot a phoney a mile off! We need good role models who are not just talking but are taking action. This is the best way to inspire others along this path.  When your focus is on being the change you are able to share what you learn with others without ego or judgement but simply in the interests of encouraging people to make more informed choices.  People are always more open to listen under these circumstances.

 

  1.     Don’t cling to your mistakes just because you spent a long time making them.

When we know better we can do better.    Acknowledge and make peace with the fact that you may have farmed in ways that you now realise are harmful to the earth and to its inhabitants.  Forgive yourself and move on don’t beat yourself up or look for excuses to stubbornly remain stuck in the old paradigms to help save face. Resolve that now you know better you can do better.  Being the change we wish to see is the best thing we can do.

  1.     What other people think of you is none of your business

The fear of what people think can keep us from making changes to the way we farm.  Remember that what other people think of you is none of your business! Pioneering requires tenacity and courage to do things differently from other farmers.  Remind yourself that every new idea looks crazy at first (Abraham Maslow) and remember that definition of insanity we talked about earlier.

The three stages of truth:

“All truth passes through three stages.

First, it is ridiculed.

Second, it is violently opposed.

Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

(Arthur Schopenshauer).

  1.  Realise that you always have a choice

“I am not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions.” Stephen Covey.

You can choose to remain stuck in old farming paradigms and risk running yourself out of business.  This becomes likely when you continue running down your financial base through the high input approach, running down your soil carbon and natural resource base so that you create your own droughts & floods and running down your human resources whilst you struggle to keep up in the ever complex treadmill of high input driven farming systems.  Staying the same and not changing anything is a choice.

You can also choose to embrace change and transform the way you farm by thinking differently and more holistically.  Shifting your focus to growing healthy living soil and watching this take care of everything else leading to vibrantly healthy plants, animals and farming family.  You can make the choice to put the lifestyle back into farming.

Contact Kim Deans at kim