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Defining your Farm's Culture: Values, Vision, and a Mission Statement

by Amber Roberts, Extension Educator, Agricultural Business Management

"Employees in every organization, and at every level, need to know that at the heart of what they do is something grand and inspirational." - Patrick Lencioni

Culture is the underlying social architecture of all organizations and comprises the organization's widely shared values, behaviors, and assumptions.  The same is true for your farm. If you haven't already identified your core values and how they shape your farm's culture, doing so can reinforce what makes your farm unique from others. Knowing your farm culture also can help you as an employer and job applicants identify if they would be a strong fit for your farm.

Graphic of 4 steps to finding your farm's culture: 1) find your core values, 2) detail your farm vision, 3) write a mission statement, and 4) act upon your farm culture.
How can you start to define your farm's culture?  The primary aspects of establishing your farm's culture are to find your core values, detail your vision for the farm, write a mission statement, and then act on your farm's culture consistently. 

Core Values

 Core values help you to answer the question, what do I want to live by? Typically these values naturally emerge from your farm and are self-evident, although they can take time to identify. Start by writing down the values that guide your farm's operation, these values should be a primary focus of your operation and consistently acted on. From the list of values that you have written, 2 or 3 of these values should turn out to be your farm's most core values. 

An example of a farm core value could be safety. A farm could value safe animal handling, safe machine operation, and employee safety. With this core value, the farm would act on ensuring safety for everyone, every day. For this farm acting on these core values could include that safety is discussed at every farm meeting and stringent operating procedures are required before operating equipment. 

Vision 

Vision is the basis for the feeling of meaningful work. How do you motivate your employees? What's their emotional reason for working? Vision can establish how the work that employees are doing is relevant to the farm and worthwhile. 

To establish a vision for your farm, start by thinking about your farm's core values, how these play into meaningful work that your farm does, and where you want to see your farm in the future. It can be helpful to think about your vision at different times in the future. Where do you want to see your farm in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? What is the overarching vision across all of these timeframes for your farm and how can this vision inspire meaningful work for your employees? 

 Mission Statement

Using your farm's core values and vision, you can create a mission statement for your farm. Your mission statement should be centered around your core values and address the why behind your farm. Why are you farming and why is your farm unique? You want your mission statement to be meaningful to your farm and memorable. Often mission statements are just short and they can involve overtime. It's okay to write a mission statement today that gets changed five years in the future. 

Once you've created your mission statement - share it! Add your mission statement to your employee handbook and share your mission statement with your employees. Take pride in your mission statement and make it visible to everyone on the farm. Is there a visible place that you could put your mission statement? Could you add a sign in your barn or office? Can you add your mission statement to your farm's Facebook page? Could you include your mission statement in job descriptions? Seeing your mission statement in a highly visible place can help to make sure that you're living up to the mission. 

Act on your Culture

Knowing your core values, vision for the future, and having a written mission statement is a great start to defining your farm's culture. But more than just defining your culture, you need to consistently act upon these values.  Your farm's culture forms when the actions and decisions you make are routinely in line with your vision and mission statement. Building a healthy culture for your farm by living your farm's mission statement creates well-defined expectations of everyone on the farm and leads to more productive, engaged, satisfied employees.

To learn more about creating a healthy farm culture, listen to the Farm Culture podcast.

Episode Content:
01:25 - Farm and Personal Culture
04:26 - Core Values
05:44 - Vision and Mission Statement
12:28 - Components of Culture

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