Leaders are readers, according to an old saying, and that’s true for many farm executives. Although you likely don’t have time to sit and read books for hours on end, during the winter you probably spend a substantial amount of time sitting—whether on airplanes, in the cab of a pickup or back home at the office.
This year, try using an app such as Audible to listen to books on the go, download an e-book to your preferred reading device or simply pick up a good read from your local library. Below are four books that will start your year off right, as recommended by some of our Top Producer columnists.
The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully by Aaron Carroll
Farmers often rush into food arguments informationally underequipped. It would help if we had some argument other than “If I grow it, it must be OK”. Aaron Carroll, an Indiana University professor of pediatrics, prolific blogger (“The Incidental Economist”), tweeter and columnist, lends us a big hand with this surprisingly readable yet scientifically rigorous overview. From sugar to fat to GMOs and more, Carroll doesn’t just cite the latest headline. Instead, he summarizes and evaluates the data available. The results are
better than a full-throated endorsement of what we produce, which would be dismissed immediately. In one food fight after another, he demonstrates how good, albeit unexciting, scientific methods can allay unwarranted fears and restore much of the joy of eating. Indeed, his own examples about his family and diet remind us how eating used to be more fun. For farmers, he offers helpful information we can use not to shut down criticism but to respond calmly and authoritatively to criticism. One caveat: this even-handed look at food might not thrill dairy producers, but his advice is sound. —John Phipps
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
You need to make sure you create a vision for your business, and this book can help you do that. The model for doing so revolves around six primary points: vision, data, process, people, issues and traction. “Without vision, you have no traction for your business,” Wickman writes. The cool thing about this book is it provides the tools you need to implement the model on your own. It’s one of the most powerful business books I’ve read. You could read it almost every year and get a fresh perspective on your operation. —Chris Barron
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
This is not a business book, but it is an eye-opening read. It follows the author’s life journey from entrenched troubles of life in poor, working-class Appalachia to Yale Law School. Author J.D. Vance recognizes cultural and familial patterns and histories and summons the courage and strength to chart new paths forward. Along the way, Vance provides an intimate look into the troubles and hardships facing America’s working-class poor that are dealing with the ever-quickening pace of change. The message of “Get moving and changing, or get left behind,” is brutal yet simple. The ability to see through another person’s eyes is something we all need right now in this world where we flock to like-mindedness. This book is about change and understanding why change is so hard. —Greg Peterson
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Author and researcher Angela Duckworth has created her own scale for grit. To her, grit is about tenacity and ability to reach a goal over a long period of time despite challenges, adversity or external factors. Success is not just about diligence but also about facing problems and continually coming up with solutions. Most producers face commodity prices that might not meet their budget needs, and figuring out where to find margin takes grit. This book can also help younger leaders in your organization enter the business with a better understanding of what it really takes to stick to it. Duckworth also points out talent is not an indicator
of success. Rather, business owners need to hire talented people but also hold them accountable. They should not dismiss poor performance or bad behavior because of talent. Managers must evaluate employees on determination and work ethic, too. —Sarah Beth Aubrey