Effective communication FOR the farm

By Tim Cobb
Owner, Farmland Company

wheat field

In an industry where your “word” often carries more weight than a written agreement, effective communication between agricultural stakeholders is key to long-term success. Solid and forthright communication is a foundation of trust that takes years for good farming operations to establish. Effective dialog is a constant moving target, but if given the right attention at the right time, it has the capacity to sustain legacy farmland ownership in its generational opportunity and excellence.

Essential for farmland that is leased by absentee landlords is an earnest approach to the level of engagement desired and how best to grow the strength of the working relationship. For this type of scenario to work, all parties will need to come together to understand communication needs and direction. 

Simple and consistent communication provides three impactful elements:

Connection to the Land. For the many farmland owners with whom we work, one common question is always at the forefront of our conversations.  “Tell us how the farm is doing,” they ask. These owners, many of which have distant memories of visiting or even working these farms with their families, are thrilled to hear a quick report about how the season is progressing. Conversations range from the impacts of the weather or the seeding conditions in the fall, to the new and improved grain varieties that are being used to enhance overall productivity. 

There is power in a short notification. Regular updates in the form of a current “farm report,” for example, could be sent out indicating the status of the farm and only needs to be as simple as a written message at predictable times (spring and/or harvest) in the desired communication medium (mail, text, email, or social media) to be impactful. These routine notifications, however short or long the communication might be, will always yield a stronger connection and increase the depth of experience for those involved. 

Builds and maintains relationships of mutual trust. Successful operators and owners know how to work interdependently for the good of the land, making needed adjustments to crop rotations, tillage practices, and leasing arrangements in both good and poor markets. They understand the ebb and flow of changing local and global conditions and work to eliminate undesirable surprises that negatively impact the farmland and the strength of the working relationship. Proactive, strong communication lines will always allow for the time required by both sides to trust that the best effort is being put forth to control the controllable in farming.  

Courage to share the full story. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” could never be truer when it comes to courageously communicating the current status of the farm. 

We live in a time where the quality of cameras built into our smart devices enable us to quickly update a farmland stakeholder in real time of the status of a crop, irrigation equipment repair, or other improvement to a building on the property. The ability to share an image or video with speed and accuracy has changed our world forever, and ours is the opportunity to harness the advancement of this medium to communicate the good, bad, and even the ugly that is happening on the farm.  

It is important to be willing to share all aspects with equal transparency. There are times when we, as operators, tend to hyperfocus on the challenges or other negative moments on the farm. Acting with integrity and courageous communication to divulge challenges the farm is facing is imperative. Make sure to also share the good as often as possible and be the reason for optimism, especially in the face of increasing challenge. Sharing the full story will pay dividends. 

Overall, the most exemplary operators in the industry are using improved ways to communicate with landowners to ensure they maintain a standard of clientele relationship that will continue to grow in this testing environment. 

Our invitation on reading this article is to share something today. Send a word of encouragement to your farm operator to let them know of your ongoing support or send a picture of the current crop to your landowner with a short message detailing a challenge you have overcome. Those messages will add real strength to the farm.  

Tim Cobb is a farm kid from Eastern Washington and is the owner of Farmland Company, based in Spokane, Wash. Farmland Company specializes in direct farmland management, real estate brokerage, and consulting across the Pacific Northwest. For more information, visit the company’s website at farmlandcompany.com.