From family dynamics, to massive debt, to uncertainty in future markets, farmers today face a very wide variety of problems. Dealing with these in a multi-generational operation can be extremely difficult, especially when the farm’s success has majorly been because previous generations have bred into the family a hard-nosed, hard working, and sometimes stubborn mentality. We had the honor of having Andy “Caygeon” Junkin out to the farm last week for a live recording of the TopSoil podcast with Mitchell. Caygeon is the founder of Stubborn.Farm, a company that aims to fix family farm business culture. Caygeon had a lot of wisdom to share with us, and here are some of my takeaways.
1. Farmers are stubborn, and that’s what has made them successful. This is also what makes many farms fail.
Stubbornness is a trait that most farm families have had in their bloodline for generations. It’s a trait that causes massive success when you’ve got to “tough it out”, but it’s also a trait that can cause a lot of division and anger between generations. Caygeon sees this mostly in a son or daughter coming back home to the farm after going to ag school, having a bunch of new ideas, and immediately getting shut down by the older generation. Caygeon helps to fix this dynamic, and this dynamic is massively important to fix because at the end of the day, the family farm needs to have younger generations with some responsibility and leadership roles if it’s going to continue onto the next generation. If the grandpa on the farm keeps all of the leadership and responsibility, the farm is going to be in trouble when he passes.
2. Keeping your goals written out and in front of you keeps you on track to achieving those goals.
Caygeon keeps his main goals printed on his wallet, so that he has them in front of him all of the time. One of them reads, “read 75 pages per day,” and he gets up at 4 am to do so every day. The goal that he took the most pride in, and the one printed in the most prominent spot on his wallet reads, “Be the man you want your boys to grow up to be”. On a farm operation, or in any business, keeping your goals front and center can be huge to actually achieve those goals. Caygeon joked that the main goal of a farm should be posted above the toilet so that the men will read it more often, because the women on the farm “have better memories”, and the men will forget it if it’s not in front of them regularly.
It may seem simple, but something as little as getting a goal framed or posted on a wall in the main family room or shop of a farm can change how a farm operates. It has to be a goal that everyone is behind and agrees upon, and if posted in a prominent spot, it can serve as a constant reminder to achieve that goal.
3. Whenever you point your finger at somebody, there’s three fingers pointing back at yourself.
Caygeon said this a couple of times, and it’s something that stuck with me personally. What he means by saying this is that on a farm, whenever you go to point your finger at somebody else, there needs to be some serious self reflection beforehand. We all have flaws and have made mistakes, and placing blame on others doesn’t help to bring confidence or peace on a farm. Focusing on what you yourself can improve upon rather than pointing out everybody else’s flaws is a great way to start that, and I think that’s something that everyone can resonate with.
4. Breaking stubborn patterns isn’t just to improve upon social dynamics of the farm – it massively can improve profitability.
While a lot of Caygeon’s talk was about the social dynamics of the farm, it also always came back to ROI and farm profitability. He says that his process proves a guaranteed 300% ROI, just from fixing certain dynamics and helping the farm to achieve goals. That’s massive! One of the things that Caygeon does is, in every farm meeting that he goes into, everyone has to have an idea that has a great ROI, but costs less than $1000. If they don’t have an idea, they have to burn a $1 bill, then a $5 bill in the next meeting, then 10 and so on. Just this visual of burning a dollar bill helps flip a switch for a lot of folks.
Caygeon mentioned many little things on family farms that people get caught up in that are due to a social dynamic of the family. These many times, at the end of the day, hurt profitability the most. The biggest thing that sticks out about this last takeaway is that this process isn’t about Caygeon coming onto the farm and being Dr. Phil. While Caygeon does do a little bit of that, his main goal is to help farms to pass on to the next generation, and if the farm isn’t economically sustainable, it will not do so.
It was great to have Caygeon out to the farm to share about what he does on the TopSoil podcast. What he’s doing across the U.S. and Canada has helped many farm families to work better together, and improve their profitability. To learn more about what Caygeon does, go to www.stubborn.farm. You can listen to the full podcast episode by clicking on the button below. We want to thank Caygeon for his time spent with us on the TopSoil podcast, and hope to have him out again sometime!