BC agriculture minister Norm Letnick reeled off a string of numbers that should have stirred pride in the heart of any farmer listening to him at this year’s BC Agriculture Gala in Abbotsford. He even encouraged listeners to give themselves a hand for the great work they do and the contribution they make to BC’s economy.
But when asked how many of them were posting a profit in such robust times, few if any hands showed.
The fact is, farmers are a modest lot. We also know too well how a turn in the weather can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Profit is something no one wants to talk about because it often depends less on the farmer’s effort and just as often slips away when it comes into sight. Boasting of our own good fortune can also seem insensitive to those sideswiped by circumstances beyond their control.
But there’s another side to a modest approach that’s downright practical. When we mind our own business, we can actually avoid foreseeable risks.
Sure, farming is often a lifestyle choice. Yet it’s also a way to make a living, with many family farms now operating as family corporations. Thinking about the family farm as a business enterprise isn’t romantic, but it’s essential to success in a world where society has high expectations of farmers. Moreover, when family farms grow, they need to have the management tools any other growing business needs.
This is why having written protocols in place for farm safety and animal welfare are as important as having a financial plan that you can present to a banker.
It’s tough to get credit from the bank if you can’t explain how you’ll use the money and repay it. Similarly, documenting farm safety protocols lets workers know you’re looking out for them and know what to do when accidents happen. A written plan also lets insurance companies know that people did what they could to limit risks.
Similarly, an animal welfare plan can earn credit with consumers, who want to know that farmers are producing food in an ethical manner.
Winning and keeping markets depends on treating workers, livestock and the land well. This is true whether those markets are across the road or across the border.