By Paul Bootsma
October 8, 2010
Ontario farmers have a history of being open with each other when discussing business. Helping each other overcome difficulties and making improvements in production are often discussed in coffee shops, at seminars or in information meetings. Farmers have tended to consider each other as colleagues rather than competitors and have functioned in this manner for generations. But this type of working relationship is being challenged by a new era of business and management approaches that are less focused on shared progress.
I am of the opinion that there is still room for farmers to work together to achieve shared goals. Working with our fellow producers and industry partners will become a needed aspect for success, especially as we work with others in the chain of production and add value to our product.
Make no mistake; we live in a world where competitors are more than willing to take away business from Ontario farmers. To meet the challenge, we must focus on working together as farmers, in conjunction with our processing and marketing partners. But to do so, we need to be open to sharing information through all our communications channels.
Open communications is not without its challenges. Independence has always been important to the individual farmer. Doing it your own way is one of the benefits to farming on your own. The end goal however, is the same for everyone; to produce a safe, healthy and profitable product consumers wish to purchase. Achieving this will require as much, if not more, communication as we all try to gain from an increasingly competitive market. We all have the same customer, discovering their wants and wishes for farm products takes co-operation and should not keep farmers from strategizing together.
Over the next months as we attend meetings and come together over a cup of coffee I think we need to put an emphasis on our collaboration skills. We need to be able to speak and listen carefully and thoughtfully as colleagues. Farmers will need to express their opinions in a way that makes clear what they think and need, but also in a manner that makes others want to listen. They need to be able to exchange opinions to develop the best thought-out actions to enable their sector. Thinking together is not bad business but helps move business ahead and makes an industry progressive. The old saying that strength is in numbers is as real today as it was yesterday. Together we can move forward.
Paul Bootsma is the District and Member Representative of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, Ontario and is archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.