How to be a Great Farmer

Becoming a great farmer does not happen overnight, and there is a reason many families remain farmers for generations; it takes experience and learning from mistakes to become great. Humans seem naturally predisposed to farming, home gardeners and cattle ranchers alike know the feeling of satisfaction that comes with watching something grow thanks to your effort and investment. However, in order to make money and be considered a great farmer there are three areas that must be mastered: biology, technology, and business. Understanding each area is key to operating a successful farming venture.

The first area, biology, is what most people think of when they think of farming. It involves understanding how to grow and manage the health of plants or animals. First the farmer must understand the genetics of their crop, whether that means purchasing hardy seeds or high quality calves. It also means understanding how to prevent diseases and eliminate other pests. It also involves understanding the needs of the crop, how much water, what types of food, the right kind of soils, when to apply fertilizer, when it is ready to harvest etc. The great farmer controls every variable that he can to maximize yields.


The next area of expertise is operating and maintaining the technology that is required to operate a farm. That means purchasing and maintaining equipment such as vehicles, buildings, irrigation systems, and various other mechanical systems. A farmer needs to be able to fix things when they are broken and understand what tools are best for which jobs. These tools are what allow a farmer to maximize his productivity. Investing in technology and tools is key to competing in today’s modern, globalized economy.

The final piece of being a great farmer is mastering the business side of the operation. This means tracking and managing costs, debts, assets, and revenue. It also means finding customers and hiring good people. Accounting, taxes, customer service, human resources, banking, and logistics are all part of the business side of farming. This piece is often overlooked, but if you can’t run a business then you won’t be able to run a farm.

Experience, knowledge, patience, flexibility, and attention to detail are all key traits that great farmers call on everyday to get the job done. There are no shortcuts or secrets, just hard work and persistence. Any farmer will tell you there are good years and bad years, things can be uncertain at times, but uncertainty can be managed.

Andy Davison