For many, creating a strategic plan for your operation seems daunting or unnecessary. Not to mention the potential cost of hiring a professional consultant further adds to many growers’ lack of desire to create a plan. Agriculture is constantly changing, and your operation must adapt to those changes to remain successful and prevent becoming stagnant.

Creating a strategic plan allows you to take a step back from your operation’s day-to-day affairs and analyze where you stand currently and where you ultimately want your operation to go within the next year. A common misconception of strategic plans is that they are a large undertaking that happens once a year – similar to a holiday or birthday. But they don’t have to be. For most growers, strategic plans are their way of accomplishing higher efficiency, increased volume, and a reorganization of the business – and can be done fairly easily.

Let’s delve more into making this plan happen!

There are many approaches to creating strategic plans but there are crucial aspects that, no matter how you go about creating the plan, must be there. One of those is your core values. Identify what your operation stands for and what its true purpose is. This will help guide the rest of your strategic plan.

The next focus is determining your vision. This is the time to move away from the old and focus on building the new. Where do you want your operation to go? How do you want it to expand or grow? Everything you want for your operation in the next year should be included in your vision.

With your vision determined, it’s time to look at where you currently stand, which is accomplished through a SWOT analysis. SWOT analyses evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Determining these four aspects of your operation is the most crucial aspect of this strategic plan.

When determining strengths, pay attention to what you are defining as strength. These should be internal (within your operation). Look at your resources, capabilities and core competencies and determine your strengths from those. Market factors, such as the price of corn, would not be a strength of your operation. Additionally, don’t neglect your strengths. Just because you’re good at it doesn’t mean you can’t get better at it.

Establishing your weaknesses can be an eye-opening experience – but it’s all for the benefit and growth of your operation. Where do you lack? Could you use more employees or ones with specific skill sets? Are you constantly trying to track down documentation? Then perhaps organization is a weakness. Listing every area that you lack in will help you with accomplishing the goals and visions that you are establishing.

Opportunities and threats should be based on things external to your operation. Markets, land, currency can all be opportunities or threats depending on what is currently going on and what is predicted. Additional opportunities are anything that you are considering doing to or for your operation, such as public relations.

To accomplish anything within this plan you’ve got to have goals. Goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based, which will allow you the chance to accomplish the goals. If you want to hire a farm hand that is knowledgeable in technology, establish how to make that happen. Determine a deadline of when they should be hired by, how you plan to hire them and the exact qualifications that will make the suitable.

When the goals are set, it’s time to make them happen. Do that through prioritization and implementation.  The TOWS matrix, which takes your SWOT analysis and shows you how all of the parts work together, is one way to start implementing your plan.


It’s important to pay attention to how you are prioritizing your goals. Focus on one goal at a time rather than multiple ones at once. Greg McGeown, author of Essentialism, illustrates why that is so important by showing where your energy goes when focused on too many things at once.


Developing a strategic plan is a crucial element to any grower or producer that wants to see their operation succeed and grow. Though daunting at first, it’s worth it in the end when you find yourself accomplishing the goals you set and you see your vision come true. 


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