From the Editor: Better than before
March 22, 2023 By Alex Barnard
What do you want from the coming months?
While the time for New Year’s resolutions may be past, it remains a time of reflection on the previous year and consideration for the growing season ahead.
Goal-setting can be difficult in agriculture, with so many variables beyond your control. It’s tempting to think about determining success by yields and profits – and for good reason, as they’re the main metrics that net bragging rights and put money in the bank. But a stretch of bad weather or major weather event at the wrong time can put the kibosh on record-breaking yield aspirations faster than you can say “looks like rain.”
You may have heard of SMART goals – the acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. It’s a set of parameters to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure or disappointment right off the bat.
The time-bound factor is probably the easiest to determine; you can use the entirety of the 2023 growing season, whenever that ends for you. Or you can pick a longer period of time, if your project is larger in scale than one season can accomplish.
Consider: “I want to improve my soil.” Well, okay – how? In what ways? What measures will you take? Are your expectations reasonable? Breaking down a goal into its constituent parts can point out weaknesses in the plan or help you consider what might be more realistic.
Saying you want to have soil organic matter levels of five per cent or more is great. But if your soil samples show two percent, is it reasonable to think you can push that number up by 150 per cent or more in one growing season – or even three? What steps will you take to make it happen?
So, with a little consideration and running the numbers on what’s doable for you, the goal could be “I want to increase my soil organic matter by X per cent from Y per cent to Z per cent (based on what’s realistic for my soil and farm operation) by 2027, which I will accomplish through W management practices (growing a cover crop or spreading manure, perhaps) during the 2023 growing season.” Wordy, but it hits all the SMART goal parameters and will be easier to track and reflect on come next January.
And remember – setting a goal isn’t only about achieving it. Adages like “shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” or “it’s not the destination; it’s the journey” may have been rendered a bit cheesy through repetition, but the sentiments have merit.
Whether you accomplish exactly what you set out to do, do better than you did before, or completely bellyflop and take only lessons and some bruised pride from the experience – you tried something with the intention of improvement.
And, come this time next year, you’ll be that much better equipped to try it again.
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