Think of the family homestead like you would a business. Many of the same rules for running a profitable small business apply to running a homestead farm. However, while it is said, "it's not personal, it's business," a family farm is both. There's no getting around family issues on the farm, and there's no way to keep your work life at work when you live there. Striking the balance between family as coworkers and family as lifelong relationships is achievable but not easy. As with anything else in business, you will need a plan to run a family homestead farm.
Define a purpose for your family farm. What are your family's goals? What are the goals for the farm? How will you define success on the homestead? Hold a business meeting/family meeting to discuss what it is you want the mission statement of the farm to be, and write it down. When things get rocky with production on the farm or with "human resources," you can always go back to the mission statement to help you find the right solution.
Make a list of the different jobs or roles on the farm and delegate exactly who is the primary person in charge of each area of the homestead. Each member of the family, no matter how young, needs to have a least one core responsibility for which they are held accountable. Define the roles of family members clearly. If everyone knows what is expected of him and exactly what his job is, then he will be more likely to focus his energies to increase performance, therefore adding to the profitability of the family farm.
Make sure you have at least one secondary person assigned to each role in addition to the primary, and share the work load among family members. If one person is primarily responsible for maintaining grain storage or managing the calendar for pesticide application, train one other family member how to do that job as a backup. When only one person knows how to do a job, you run the risk of losing that information if that person moves, gets the flu, wants to work outside the home or leaves the homestead for any length of time.
Assign someone to be the office manager and keep track of all of the records. Whether it is tracking the size of your herd or how much you spent on seedlings last year, compared with this year, someone must do this job and stay on top of it. This is one of the most important and often overlooked roles on the family farm. The office manager is the person to go to when determining if you are running a successful homestead or a slow-leaking business flop. This job also will need a secondary person assigned to it. Use standard notebooks with pencils, or go with computer programs here, whatever works best for your family records.
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Create production goals everyone can understand and commit to reaching. The only way you will know if you and your family are running a viable business is to have a ruler with which to measure it. This can be as simple as a dollar amount earned each week at the farmer's market, or another specific number, such as how many bushels of apples sold, the how much livestock auctioned off, or how many bars of Aunt Bessie's homemade soap are made and sold. When you work toward clearly defined numbers, everyone will know whether or not the family goals are being met.
Plan for the future and make sure everyone has an understanding of what is expected of her. Hold regular family meetings where everyone has a voice. This is an opportunity to check on progress in each area of responsibility and what each person might need help with, but it is also a time to look ahead to the future and prioritize major equipment or livestock purchases, plan for days that will require everyone's help in the same area, such as harvest time, and even organize events that can help promote your farm and bring in profit, such as a field day at a local school or hay rides offered on the farm.
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