Why Participate in a Peer Group?
Peer Groups, Producer Groups, Ambassador Groups, Networking, Farmer Co-operatives, Benchmarking, etc. This sounds exhausting all-in-itself. So what is this all about? Why do I need this? Why do I want to add more work to my already crazy busy life? If you identify with these comments…well…you’re not alone, or at least you’re not alone in thinking this way.
What are all the reasons or, unanswered questions that become reasons, why many producers are not participating in a group of their peers?
What value will I get out of it?
I don’t have time.
This is going to add to my already high costs.
I’ve never done this before, so why should I do it now?
I don’t think I have anything valuable to add.
Everyone there is likely a better manager than me.
I don’t want anyone to know my strategies.
They will all have bigger and/or more successful farms than I do.
Farming can be many things; a way of life, a great entrepreneurial opportunity, a place to raise your children, a multi-generational family business, a place to let your dog run free without bothering the neighbours, a place to go for a walk or ride your horse or quad or snow machine for miles without leaving your own property, a place to breathe farm fresh air, a quiet place to hear yourself think… and, it can also be very lonely. In fact, I’ll bet that many of you reading this article have felt very alone at times in your farming career, or have felt alone in supporting someone close to you as they struggled through a difficult situation or decision.
Of course, there are Farm and Rural Support Services available for those times of particularly stressful situations such as debt problems, death, divorce, etc. But who can you talk to about HR issues, financial management benchmarking, expansion planning, shop/office construction ideas, family business issues, production challenges, risk management strategies, etc?
Yes, there are industry professionals who can help you address and manage each of these areas, on an individual basis, when you are ready to really dig in and work on specific challenges in detail. But if you’re in the camp with many other’s that would like to see and hear how other producers have addressed the challenges that you are facing, and would like an opportunity to provide some value to others through your experiences (and yes you have experienced a lot throughout your career/s and do have significant value to add), then a peer group may be a good fit.
What are the identified benefits of participating in a peer group?
Benefit from the experience, success and challenges of others
Realization that you are all basically in the same boat.
Support of an informal team
Participants are not your neighbours/competitors
Participants are not your friends
Unbiased feedback– participants will ask questions or share advice or experience that friends & family may not
Safe and non-judgemental environment
Responsible and respectful feed-back
Diversity regarding operation type, size, management, etc.
Financial and/or non-financial results of other’s Action Plans
Goal setting accountability
Peer group participants have found significant value, during the rich discussions that occur during peer group meetings, that they can take away and apply to their individual circumstances. They have formed friendships and a support network that they can contact between meetings. They have created an informal team environment (something that typically only occurs in other industries), and have removed an element of solitude that is very typical of operating a farm business.
Denise Filipchuck, consultant associate at Backswath Management Inc. is a specialist in financial management, a Financial Planning Standards Council FPSC Level 1®
Certificant and a Certified Member of the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA). Since earning a Certificate in Agriculture Studies, she has been working with both agriculture and non-agriculture clients. A farmer at heart, Denise was raised on a grain, oilseed and hog farm outside of Swan River, MB.