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The Tale of the Farmer with Superior Intuition

The Intuitive Farmer - Inspiring Management Success

How many times do you find yourself thinking 'how can I make my farm successful'? Run an internet search for "successful farming techniques" and you'll come up with dozens of stories and ideas as to what will make your farm prosperous. But do these techniques work and how do you know which will be best for you?

Dr Nuthall of Lincoln University has addressed this issue in his book The Intuitive Farmer – Inspiring Management Success. Research makes it clear that ‘Farms are run on intuition. Every day every farmer makes a myriad of decisions based on intuition. Successful farm management is totally dependent on the quality of the farmer’s inherent intuition.’

How Do You Make Your Farm Successful?

The book is about Ben, who farms in rolling country in New Zealand, and some of his colleagues. Tom, a management researcher, guides a research programme in which the farmers take part. They face many management dilemmas that get the attention of guided group discussions. The decision problems are universal to any farming system in all countries.  Both successes and tragedies emerge from the farmer centred experiment, and a multitude of lessons.

The novel has recently been released by Old Pond Publishing. It is available worldwide as the lessons apply equally in all countries and production types.

‘A farmer’s intuition is the result of experience, training and the farmer’s ancestry’ noted Dr Nuthall. While some would believe intuition is genetic, and a built in attribute, in reality most aspects are learnt from parental influences, experience and training.

Supporting Evidence

A research study on farmers intuition based on over 700 farmers of all types has shown a large variation in profit and other outputs, meaning intuition levels vary considerably. This variation was used to isolate the key factors in the thought process of successful farmers.

The study showed the relative importance of each of the core variables giving rise to a farmer’s intuition. Feedback on decisions contributed 11%, experience 15%, technology knowledge 14%, anticipation ability 5%, observation ability 21%, reflection on decisions 23%, and decision theory knowledge 11%.

Statistical studies of the data suggests at least 60% of a farmer’s intuition is due to the environmental aspects in contrast to genetic influences. And, of course, it is very likely the current farmers’ genetic base has evolved over the centuries with the early farmers who exhibited successful intuition dominating and surviving.

In his analysis Dr Nuthall comments ‘It was discovered that planning ability contributes 4% to output, plan implementation ability 20% and intuition a very significant 76%.  It is surprising that planning contributes so little, but the 20% for implementation is to be expected’.

To conclude, Dr Nuthall noted that self-reflection is critical, and also the critique of decisions and outcomes by friends and colleagues. Careful observation is also important as is extensive experience and a knowledge of the technology. These three go hand in hand, and can all be improved with concentrated effort.

Farmers aren't always the best at formal study. Dr Nuthall advises ‘a painless way is to embed the lessons is to put them into a story about farmers and farming. Hence I have put together the novel ‘The intuitive farmer - Inspiring management success’ to help with the process’.

Why Choose the Intuitive Farmer

Farmers will find the book challenging, enjoyable, and potentially very beneficial. Each chapter covers at least one decision skill. Students of farm management will also find the book useful. Instructors can use each chapter as a lead into educational modules.

All farmers have ‘rules of thumb’ by which they operate. A psychologist, Kelly, called them ‘constructs’. He believed they were constantly reviewed and improved. That’s intuition in a nutshell.

You can buy The Intuitive Farmer - Inspiring Management Success here.

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