Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

It's Easy to be a Busy Fool

“It’s easy to be a busy fool” – and in livestock farming in particular I think this is a trap in to which farmers can easily fall because animals need looking after, especially in the winter when routine tasks of feeding, mucking out, bedding down etc can take up much of one’s working day. By the time all this routine work is finished many farmers will simply not have the energy to think how they could change what they do to improve or alter their farming system for the better.

This was reflected to some extent in a study presented at the Oxford Farming Conference last week which was entitled “Entrepreneurship: A kiss of life for the UK farming sector?” The paper was written by Graham Redman of the Andersons Centre and Muhammad Azam Roomi of the school of management at Cranfield University.

In the paper Redman explains that farming businesses, unlike many other businesses, have evolved to be more than about making the maximum profit, they are often about lifestyle and longevity. As a consequence this means farming businesses generally last a long time but their return on investment is not as great as for other types of businesses.

Redman argues that this approach has stifled entrepreneurship in British farming. He also explains that diversification is not the same as running an entrepreneurial business. Farmers who generate additional income from diversification may be running an efficient or profitable business but it doesn’t make them entrepreneurs. To be truly entrepreneurial, you need to be an original thinker.

“Entrepreneurship involves innovation,” he says, “It involves doing something new rather than just copying something that someone else has done."

In my view not everyone can be an original thinker and I see no problem in copying someone else’s idea provided you do it well but equally I am sure there must be some original thinkers in the farming community who are currently stuck in the trap of time consuming routine tasks. If those farmers could give themselves some strategic thinking time this may well benefit their business and perhaps also the wider farming community.

Redman goes on to explain “It is also important to exploit your skills to the maximum – and those of the people around you, as well as your other assets.

“Evidence suggests that people do best at what they are good at, what they enjoy doing and what they understand. As a farmer, you are more likely to be successful doing something in the food supply chain than you are going off and building a factory that makes shoes.”

So, why not make some time for yourself to think – the results may be scary because change very often is but in some instances you may find the changes you decide to implement are less risky than carrying on as you are.

James Stephen

James Stephen


James is a partner who heads up Carter Jonas’ South West rural operation, managing the teams in the four offices of Marlborough, Bath, Taunton and Truro.  He primarily works out of the Taun...

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