A nyone who has spent time around young children understands the power of a dream. At five years old, dreams are big and anything seems possible. But adults can and do dream, too. Remember when you were in your early 20s and just starting out as a dairy farmer? What was your dream then, and does “life today resemble the original dream?”
Most dairy farmers start out with big dreams. “When I’m 45, I want to own a herd milking 30,000 pounds and have a barn full of excellent cows.” Still others may have dreamed, “When I am 50, I want to have 500 cows milking 28,000 pounds, with 1,000 acres of farmland and a full line of equipment.”
Unfortunately, life’s circumstances and frustrations have a way of eroding away our dreams. However, we know that our lives are held in far bigger hands than our own, and our ability to respond to life’s changes is as vital as our very breath. The dreams we have for our life and our children’s lives provide the vision that keeps us moving forward.
Recently the center held the “Dairy 20/20 Financial and Risk Management Conference” for dairy lending and financial professionals. Mark Binversie, president of the Investors Community Bank in Manitowoc, Wis., spoke to the group. Back in 1996, Mark and his partners founded the Investors Community Bank after they realized that the bank where he was formerly employed had lost touch with what the agriculture industry needed.
Today, Investor’s has grown to become the largest agriculture bank charted in Wisconsin, servicing farms across the state and the Midwest region. Recently, when he was meeting with one of his dairy producer customers who lived four hours away from the bank, Mark asked him why he was banking with Investors when he had several other options located closer to him.
The farmer said, “That’s easy. First, you listen to my dream. Then, you help me figure out a roadmap on how we can get there.”
Right now is a difficult time in the dairy industry. With feed prices at all-time highs and milk prices only now starting to increase, many dairy farms are struggling. However, two things that became clear at the Dairy 20/20 Conference is that the long-term outlook for dairy is bright and few industries offer more opportunity than dairy and other ag sectors.
In Pennsylvania, many of our dairy farms have access to land to grow their own feed. We also are close to the market, with more than 50 percent of the U.S. population within a day’s drive away and our milk price one of the highest in the country. Feed prices are high right now, and it is causing significant stress on the dairy operation. However, the Eastern region is as well positioned as any region in the country to take advantage of future opportunity in the dairy industry.
So, do you remember or have you renewed your dream? Have you and your family developed a roadmap to move closer to that dream? Having that dream clearly mapped out in front of you may help you stay focused on your goals even in stressful times like the present.
Anyone who has ever done business planning knows the first step in writing a business plan is to write a vision statement. A vision statement describes “what you want your business to be.” The next step in writing the plan is to develop your mission statement and goals for your business. In other words, you are describing “how you are going to get there.”
Whether you work with a lender or not, work
Those who spoke at the conference did caution that dairy farm families should choose their consultants and their lenders wisely. There is a difference between “know” and “no,” and the ones that are most helpful are those who are willing to step outside their office and walk through your dairy with you so that they know what your dream is. Perhaps they can help you identify simple changes that can help you move closer to your goals. Or, they may help you develop long-term solutions to accomplish your plan.
The center’s Dairy Decisions Consultant Program is available to anyone who is interested in working with an outside consultant. Dairy farm families who apply can utilize a grant of up to $1,500 to use to work with one of twelve designated consultants who can help you evaluate the current operation and identify opportunities for future farm viability. To learn more about this program or for other resources from the center, call 717-346-0849 or email info<\@>centerfordairyexcellence.org.
Editor’s Note: John Frey is the Center for Dairy Excellence executive director.