Farmers & Decision-Making: The 3 Key Approaches

You are probably sick of hearing about what decisions you should be making as a farmer. Indeed, many discussions of farm management seem to revolve around what we are not doing. It’s refreshing, therefore, to consider how we make decisions and what effect your style of decision-making might be having on your productivity.

Here are the three main styles of decision-making among farmers:

1. Rational Style: Farmers who approach decisions rationally are profit maximisers. Calmly and with a minimum of emotion, they calculate the return on investment or the return on effort for different options and then choose the option that gives the biggest return. From reading many farming journals and articles, you would believe that all farmers rely on rational decision-making. There is abundant evidence to suggest that this describes only a small proportion of farming behaviour.

2. Psychological Style: You are using this style of decision-making when you say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In other words, you are relying on mental shortcuts or rules of thumb to influence your decisions. Other approaches to psychological decision-making include relying on standards such as “the early bird catches the worm” or “measure twice, cut once,” and so on. Some individuals will prefer to follow more complex routines of investigation to analyse a situation before reaching a decision. Both the psychological style and the rational style assume that farmers operate as isolated individuals and that their decision making doesn’t have a social aspect.

3. Social Style: You know, of course, that you don’t make decisions in isolation. This is where the social style of decision-making comes in. It applies to decisions farmers make when they are integrated with the social world they live in and when they seek to meet the expectations of their society and those to whom they feel accountable. Evidence suggests that the social style is the most powerful influence on farmers’ decision making.

How Co-Farm Can Help

Co-Farm offers free decision-making tools to farmers in a supportive social environment.
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