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Beyond the Bale : December 2017
PHOTO: Robert Lang Photography Winner of last year’s inaugural Rural Consultant of the Year award, Naracoorte-based Ken Solly, has regularly supported and mentored young farmers for the past 30 years. So it was no surprise that his presentation on how young farmers can address the challenges of taking on the family farm was particularly well received at the conference. Ken provided five key points on what young farmers must do to succeed. “Firstly, you must have farming in your guts,” Ken said. “If you don’t have that intrinsic love for the land, you're probably going to struggle, because the two most important things in agriculture – the weather and the market – are out of your control and both will have a huge impact on your livelihood. “Secondly, stay on a fast learning curve because you must aim to be in the top 20% of farmers. “Have defined 20-year goals. You need to know where you and the business are heading. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there, but there is a fair chance you will be dissatisfied with your destination. “You must also get some very good mentors around you, people that you can really learn from, people who will actually help with your discipline. There are too many ‘gonnas’ in agriculture; you need to have discipline to follow through with your plans. “And lastly, you must hang around with better farmers than yourself. Make sure you try and ascertain who the top farmers are, and try and learn from them all the time.” BEFORE YOU COME HOME TO THE FARM Ken said he reckons that in society, about 20% of people are in a job that suits them, 40% are not far off their right job, but 40% are in the wrong job. “Before you decide on a career in agriculture, you should test-drive two other occupations outside of agriculture, so that you’re then in a position to make an informed choice about your career going forward. “If farming turns out to be your preferred choice, then work for at least three of the very best farm employers you can find – make sure they are quite different to each other, are top 20% farmers, and are good teachers. Spend at least a year with each employer so you can see their whole business cycle and, most importantly, make your mistakes at somebody else's expense, rather than your own.” Ken advises young farmers that have decided to go home to the family farm to make sure their parents have written down a (1) Business Plan, (2) Personal Plan, (3) Succession Plan, (4) Estate Plan, and (5) Retirement Plan. “When returning to the farm, you must understand what your parents’ plans are, because these things are going to have a huge impact on you. Without knowing their plans, you're flying blind. The earlier the plans are defined and written down, the easier it will be for you. “The written plans don't need to be complex. The best business plan I ever did was on one sheet of paper where we listed all the goals. Keep it simple. “While the golden rule in business is ‘don't go into business with family or friends’, family farming of course breaks this rule so it’s vital to get good structures and discipline to avoid problems.” RETURNING TO THE FAMILY FARM ADVICE FOR YOUNG FARMERS What should young farmers consider when starting out on the family farm? That question was posed to the very knowledgeable agribusiness consultant Ken Solly at this year’s BestWool/BestLamb Conference. He gave young producers – and their parents – some very valuable advice. Read on. 56 ON FARM