As farmers, we pride ourselves in the things we grow, like our calves and crops. According to, growth is defined as “the process of growing.”

Winch christina
Dairy Producer / Fennimore, Wisconsin

Search the word “growing,” and you will find a definition that reads, “the period during which something matures.” We take time to study the latest findings to help grow our calves and crops, or we might listen to a podcast to help grow ourselves. Growth is important to keep moving forward. There are ways to grow our farms without adding cattle or acres. Growth on our farms can come through modernization, goal setting or simple improvements.

John Maxwell is a speaker and leadership trainer I admire. One of his books is The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. The book specifically talks about how to grow oneself as a leader. These laws can also be applied to how we grow our farms. I am not going to talk about all 15 laws. I have picked out three laws you can sit down now, think about and apply to the growth of your farm.

The law of awareness

John says, “To grow, you must know yourself: your strengths and weaknesses, your interests and opportunities.” In my copy of the book, I have written “SWOT” in the margin. A SWOT analysis is a simple way to determine a farm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. If you have not completed one recently, maybe sitting down with the farm team this winter to complete one would be a good resolution. Something may come up in the discussion you were not aware of that someone else saw. You can take the information from your SWOT and set other goals for the farm. When you are aware of different opportunities and things going on, then you can set a direction where to go next.

The law of design

The law of design talks about glancing backward while planning forward. This builds on the law of awareness. Once you are aware of situations and things, you can use that information to move forward. Figure out what values you live by and model on your farm, then use those values to design the future of your farm. If educating about dairy farming and agriculture is something that’s important, what can you do to incorporate that into your farm?


It could be as simple as connecting with local schools, or maybe go big and start an agritourism opportunity. Maybe cow comfort is something that is important to you. What can you do to improve cow flow, decrease lameness or a number of other improvements that will lead to increased cow comfort? Set your priorities based on your values, and design a plan that will keep your farm moving forward.

The law of curiosity

When was the last time you asked why? Why does that farm get more milk per cow? Why do their heifers always seem to grow taller? Why does their corn silage yield more? Get curious. If you want to keep the farm progressing, you have to ask the why questions and then figure out how to apply some of the answers you discover to your farm. Some people live with the philosophy: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sure, things may be working well, but is it possible to get a few more pounds of milk if we change the feed a little? Or what about growing a different variety of corn that might yield higher? When you get curious and start asking questions, there are small things you could do to grow your farm.

With a new year upon us, now is a good time to sit down and reflect. Work through a SWOT, ask the curious questions, and design a path to keep your farm progressing.