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Finding your values, mission, vision and goals

Emily Wilmes

Whether you like to admit it or not, you are a leader on your farm. There has always been a debate about the differences between leaders and managers, or perhaps “bosses” is a better second word. However, this article is not going to debate those differences today. In my mind, every dairy farmer is both—a leader and a boss. You have many, many jobs on the farm, but those two jobs can’t be forgotten. One way to not forget them is to integrate them into your daily work. “How to do it” is what you’re probably thinking now. The answer: by knowing your values, mission, vision, and goals.


Google the word “values” or the phrase “core values” and millions (seriously, MILLIONS) of hits will show up. Lists of values, worksheets about values, research on values—anything and everything you’d ever need to know, and then some. When we get down to it, values are the traits or attributes that are important to you. Values are your highest priorities and are closely tied to your belief system. You demonstrate them in your actions and use them in your decision-making process. Values are an important part of who we are as people, so knowing what our values are and understanding them is crucial. Values could include such items as family, faith, community, and wisdom, for example.

Get started by taking some time to think about and identify your values. For some inspiration, you could look up “50 core values” and find some lists to get your creative juices flowing. Do not be afraid to come up with your own values as well if you feel like you can’t find attributes that match your belief system. Try to narrow your values into a Top 5 list—something you can refer back to. If you want to take it a step further, you can write your values into value statements. These are short sentences that express your core values and may be a good way to express the values of your farm business to others.

Mission and vision

Many people use mission and vision interchangeably as if they mean the same thing. I know that I am guilty of this myself. However, they are two distinct things. Knowing both the mission and vision for your farm are important. Like your values, they drive decision making and communicate the culture of your farm business. Let’s start with mission, as we are all familiar with the phrase “mission statement.” A mission is tied to your core ideology, or your core values and purposes. Your mission is to live out those core values or, to put it another way, to live your purpose. The mission of a business or organization focuses on the present—it is all about what you are doing now to uphold your values.

A vision focuses on the future; it outlines not where you are, but where you want to be. Your vision for your business is about the future and its possibilities. Vision can be used as a motivator, a tool to keep you and your business moving forward toward your future. Like your mission, your vision is tied to the foundation of your business—it is a core part the business. However, unlike your mission, it is possible that your vision may change over time. Perhaps your vision was once to double cow numbers and now it has evolved into creating a business that is sustainable to support multiple families. Both mission and vision are an important part of your farm business, as they look at your present and future.


The importance of goals to your farm business cannot be understated. I have talked about SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) goals in the past, so I will take a different route this time to discuss goals. Goals help give your business direction—they define what you are working for or towards. Coming up with goals and discussing them with others on your farm may seem like a mundane task. However, it should be an exciting thing for you to do; you are looking into your farm’s future after all! If you are having trouble thinking about what your goals should be, take a step back and look at it through a different lens and ask yourself some key questions.

First, what do you want to happen? That seems like a pretty easy one. Write down all of the things you want for your farm business. Things like increased milk production, a new freestall barn, high crop yields, or a transition plan for your kids may show up on that list. Think about what goals can help you get what you want. Next, what do you need to happen? Write down all of the things you need for your farm business. It is possible some of your wants are actually needs. It is also possible that there are needs not being addressed because of your wants. Consider how your goals could help address these needs.

After that, what do you expect will happen? This one can be a little tricky, as you are not a fortune-teller. However, you know your business and the people you work with better than anyone. Thinking about the expectations you have for your farm may better help you define your wants and needs, and set goals. Lastly, what do you fear will happen? Fear is not something we talk about a lot, but it is a very real part of how we make decisions and set goals. Think about what you fear could happen on your farm, and how certain goals could address those fears.

Your values, mission, vision, and goals are important aspects of your farm business. Knowing these key pieces can help you be an effective leader and manager on your farm.

February 2017

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