Peer Advisory Groups Give Farmers the Leading Edge

February 1, 2012 11:30 AM

The requirement for getting better faster is accelerating, says Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M economist. One way to put your farming business on the fast track to success and growth is to join a peer advisory group. Today at Top Producer Seminar, Klinefelter moderated a panel on discovering if a peer advisory group is the right fit for you.

A peer advisory group is a group of individuals who gather to discuss their farm business. Often, these groups are made up of producers from different regions and different product niches.
According to Tim Schaefer of Ag Performance Roundtables, farmers in peer advisory groups have access to accountability. "There is positive peer pressure that comes out of a good peer advisory group," he says. Ohio farmer Les Imboden, who is involved in a peer group, says the pressure comes in two ways. "There’s peer pressure and there is pressure from the facilitator. It’s a structured environment that forces group members to focus and participate."
For some farmers, a peer group is a source of trust and support. Klinefelter says that members of a group benefit because they can talk about things that they can’t talk about in an open environment. Many top producers feel lonely in their area. Many are the leaders of their farming community and need support. A peer group gives these farmers someone on their level they can share with. "It gives us a chance to kick the tires in a confidential way," Imboden says.
He says that in his group, members don’t talk about increasing corn yields or the latest piece of machinery on the market. "It’s about human resources issues, PR issues and how to find that next 1,000 acres," Imboden says. That is important, according to Schaefer, who says that you have to be a good resource manager. "You have to think like executives and act like executives," he adds.
Another useful aspect of connecting a group of like-minded individuals with similar goals from different regions is that it expands your network of resources. Often, top producers have a core network of people who help, advise and guide them. When 10 or 12 top producers are linked in a peer advisory group, they gain access to resources they didn’t have access to before.
While participating in a group has a monetary cost, Klinefelter says, the real cost of participating is time. Imboden says the key is for all members to have "skin in the game." He says that producers who are paying to be involved in a group are committed to making the most of it. "I paid extra to bring my banker and my son, and the return on my investment was huge."


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