• Tim Hammerich

Advice From Two Successful Farmers: “Learn Faster”



Hosting the “Future of Agriculture” Podcast has given me access to some of the most successful people in the industry.


On this week’s episode I chat with Kip Tom of Tom Farms in Indiana. Tom Farms has grown immensely under Kip’s leadership, expanding operations locally and even into South America. Also, Kip is on the “short list” of potential Secretary of Agriculture nominees.


The interview reminded me of one of our early episodes with Lon Frahm of Frahm Farmland. In that episode, Lon describes how they farm 30,000 acres with less than 10 full time employees. Astonishing.


To me it was fascinating that when asked about their success, both alluded to the same point:


Both of these large farmers attributed their success to their ability to collect and more importantly, TO LEARN FROM, data.


In business, we often talk about “economies of scale”. However, one economies of scale that often gets overlooked is that of data. The larger you become, the more data you can theoretically generate and analyze. This allows you to see patterns that transcend various soils, management practices, weather patterns, etc.


This ability to collect and analyze data helps these farmers to learn quickly and adapt.


This has helped both operations to prosper.


But the learning doesn’t stop there. Tom Farms has leveraged their ability to learn in order to grow into new markets like commercial grain handling, consulting, and farming in South America.


Frahm Farmland has joined a peer group of other large farmers to improve his operation and learn from their successes and mistakes.


Tom Farms and Frahm Farmland are two very different operations. In both cases the operators started with farmland from previous generations, but the current operation looks drastically different (and larger) than the one they took over. This is largely due to their ability to learn and adapt quicker than many of their peers.


This lesson made me think of the core competencies involved in my business of recruiting. There are certainly ways that I can collect more relevant data and leverage my ability to learn. These farmers’ stories has helped me see that to win in any business, you have to learn quicker than the competition.


Whether you’re in farming or not, I would challenge you to look at your job or business in the same way.


“Data science” is more than just a buzzword. We have more tools for learning at our disposal than ever before. Use them to your advantage.