When I was a kid growing up on the farm, the best way to keep up on the latest and greatest in farm innovations was through the farm magazines. We received a bunch of ’em; Successful Farming, Farm Journal, Kansas Farmer and High Plains Journal came Saturdays; the mailman delivered Grass and Grain on Tuesday. These publications were so interesting to a young farm boy.
Successful Farming stood out. It featured really good writing and it focused more on wheat than the other monthlies. I loved its segments on machinery and shop projects. And best of all, its editor, Loren Kruse, went to school at K-State and bled purple.
Thus, when I learned Mr. Kruse was to speak at the annual Kansas Soybean Expo last month, I wanted to hear him. There are a lot of good folks in agriculture, and Loren is one of the best (as evidence, he donated his speaker’s fee to the Kansas 4-H Foundation).
His topic was “The 12 Habits of Successful Farmers.” I have to admit, I have never thought of how I define success, and I bet each of the 100 or so people in attendance that day probably hadn’t given it much thought, either.
In sports, success is often defined by winning or losing. In farming, it’s not as simple. It may be accumulating acreage, or having new equipment. Perhaps retiring debt-free, or passing an operation to another generation.
According to Mr. Kruse, it is all of those – and yet, none of those. “Success,” he offered in his address, “is simply doing the best you can, with what you’ve got.”
Those are pretty good words to live by.
But he expanded on those, by offering several other nuggets of wisdom. Based on more than three decades of work at the Successful Farming, here are the attributes of the best of this nation’s farmers.
- …use decimal points. Numbers, he says, offer greater clarity, confidence and better decision making.
- …honestly know themselves. They are focused and disciplined on controlling costs, yet seek and pay for expertise in areas that are not their strengths.
- …are open-minded and flexible.
- …accept the reality that learning takes forever. “They take action to set aside, and spend time with people who challenge their thinking,” he says.
- …take a long, tall view. They learn, change, grow – and repeat again.
- …make successful mistakes. The great basketball player Michael Jordan said, “I’ve never been afraid to fail,” Kruse recalls. Even when an error is made, successful farmers strive to make something good of the error.
- … deliberately seek and build friendships away from home. Making and cultivating friendships with folks who farm differently, are in a different line of work or may live in another part of the world, gives perspective, balance and a different world view, Kruse says.
- …remember who threw them the ball. Citing K-State quarterback Collin Klein as an example, “he can’t excel without someone hiking him the ball,” Kruse explains. Folks who are generous with time or treasure experience great happiness by “remembering who gave them the ball.”
- … have fun! “Promise your family you will take days off,” he advises. “You will be a better family man and leader.”
- … grow by storm. There is little difference between problems and opportunity. Hold onto your values, but be willing to change.
- … choose to be really good at what they do.
- … brand themselves with a good reputation. “Your name is your reputation,” he advises. “Be known as an encourager. Positive thoughts and achievements are needed in your community.”
Pretty good words of advice from one of the finer gentleman you’d ever meet.