I never realised when I went farming that I was taking the first steps in joining a club … no, “brotherhood” describes it better. A n old school mate, who’d become a tycoon in industry, visited me on the farm. His company had invested in irrigation control equipment, and he was keen to see what we were using. I was proud of our technology, but I knew a farmer in the district who’d recently commissioned a state-of-the-art pump station reputed to be more like the cockpit of a spaceship, and I was keen to see it. I rang him and without hesitation he invited us over.
We spent the morning with him, and with enthusiasm and openness he took us through the installation. He showed us every nut and bolt; he gave me contact details of the suppliers he’d used; he told us everything. My friend soaked it up, but as the morning passed he got quieter and more thoughtful. On the way home in the bakkie, I caught him looking at me with a whimsical look in his eye.
“What’s up?” I asked. “I’m trying to understand it,” he said, “here you are, producing sugar in direct competition to that guy, and he passes on to you every detail of the technology he’s spent months and months perfecting. How come? In industry I’d have been shown the door.” e farmers are like that, aren’t we? As a sugar farmer I know I can go anywhere in the world and not only will other sugar farmers welcome me and share their knowledge, they’ll probably invite me to stay over for the night. We are truly privileged to be part of a unique brotherhood, the like of which exists in no other industry. Which brings me to the 10th and final item on my list of “getting back to basics”, and that’s technology.
Looking back over the list of nine “basics” I’ve covered over the past weeks, I’ve dealt with only three of the four legs of building a successful business. Making sure of the market; making sure of the cash; making sure of the people – getting the right ones and inspiring them. The fourth leg is of course production, the subject closest to the hearts of farmers and on which we are often almost entirely focused.
This brings me back to technology. hat are you doing to keep up with technology? Are you simply taking it as it comes, or do you have a plan which ensures you and your team are up to speed? The farming brotherhood makes it easy. Are you using it? When last did you visit the best farmer in your district, or travel overseas to have a look at the production technology in other parts of the world? hat about the other sources? last did you get off the farm to a farmers’ day, conference or seminar in your field? Are you receiving all the latest industry-specific magazines? How much do you use the internet? If never … I’m afraid you’re a lost cause and I’m probably wasting my time on you. For goodness sake, it’s the most powerful and easy-to-use information medium ever developed, and to ignore it is crazy.
Top levels of production are driven by top levels of technology, but without the market, without the cash and without the right people helping you put it all together you’ll never have a business that you can truly be proud of. It’s all about getting back to basics. – Peter Hughes ([email protected] or call (013) 745 7303). |fw