Don’t Just Survive. Make Your Farm Strong and Stable [Opinion]

When I’ve faced down various crises in my life, my entire focus narrows the issue at hand. Once that initial blow forces me to acknowledge that my life has changed, I set about getting done what needs to get done. That keeps the emotions at bay long enough to handle whatever landed in my lap.

One thing I don’t really do at the time is think about how my life needs to change as a result. That doesn’t come until much later, if at all. The crisis hits, I face it down, handle it, and move on.

The leadership at Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI) thought bigger during its crisis. There aren’t too many disasters as big for a grower as having your water source turned off for a full month. But once the worst was over, the board, management, and team leaders immediately pivoted to assess how they could change as a company.

The changes they made were not small. NAPI is going from five crops to a much more diverse crop profile, with vegetables leading the way. The operation is trialing new technology on several fronts, and it’s jumping into organics.

More subtle things have changed, as well. Subtle, but more profound. The routine the silos that result when different crews don’t interact much have been shaken. Teams are working together much more often, sharing expertise across departments. They are also traveling to other operations in the West and Southwest to learn better growing techniques and see what’s possible for their farm.

NAPI’s willingness to change, to expand its ideas of what’s possible in the face of disaster, is extraordinary. The courage and vision on display are worth emulating throughout the industry.

Things Look a Little Different, Don’t They?

Allow me to switch gears. American Vegetable Grower® is rolling out more than just a new look in its June issue. We’ve conducted a great deal of research about what you need to make your operation exceptional (and, frankly, we’ll never stop digging to learn more about that topic), and we’re committed to helping you however we can. That means delivering information in new ways with all the tools we have available.

Watch for more growing tips, developing crop research, a deeper focus on emerging technology, and innovative ways to handle perennial issues like labor. We plan to share that with you in a number of ways, including targeted emails, new events, and through GrowingProduce.com.

Oh, One More Thing

I talk to smart, experienced growers and researchers every month. Not everything makes it into an article. Here are three things I think you can use.

  1. When asked what they plan to invest in most this year, 29% of vegetable growers said irrigation equipment, and 21% cited water, both among the highest repsonses given. (Source, American Vegetable Grower® 2017 State of the Vegetable Industry Survey).
  2. A third of Navajo Agricultural Products Industry’s production is consumed by the Navajo Nation.
  3. The Colorado Water Plan estimates that over 500,000 acres of irrigated farm land in Colorado could be dried up by 2050 as water moves to urban development. (Source: Robert Sakata)
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