Collaborative Farming & all its Advantages

Collaborative Farming & all its Advantages

Our Managing Director Jeremy “Hutch” Hutchings recently spoke with and gained insight on this topic with Founder and Managing Director of Riverland Lending Services and Collaborative Farming Australia, Jeff McDonald. Jeff is also the Chair of many highly successful collaborative farming ventures across Australia, including Bulla Burra, Sherwood Estate and River Wine Collaboratives.

The challenging but central message from Jeff’s experience is that farm owners must become ‘professional’ if their farm is going to survive. As Jeff explores; “good business governance is critical to collaborative and family farming equally. If you are not full throttle on this, you are already on your way out of farming”.

As land prices and interest rates continue to rise, Jeff believes that a lateral mindset shift is necessary for farmers in considering how best to expand their farm. Collaborative farming can be a really effective and sustainable means of expansion and lowering risk that, when properly planned and executed, can make a significant positive difference to profits, lifestyle and financial freedom. 

What does “Collaborative Farming” mean?

Fifteen years ago, it struck Jeff that most farming families were being held back in their business because they were held back by their own limitations of land, machinery and resources. He saw the opportunity for many farmers to make greater profits and expand their farms, if they considered working a little differently through collaborative farming.

Collaborative farming involves multiple families coming together to share land assets, resources and operations, and usually this arises out of a need or desire, such as health issues, ageing with no succession plan, or something quite simple such as a farmer preferring to work with others. There are many different variations in how collaborative farming can work, however most important is for the families involved to share the same values and goals. Best of all is when two farming families come together and realise their skills and abilities are like ‘yin and yang’, because it allows a much wider overall skill set to benefit both businesses and broadens the scope for profit for everyone involved.

How it can help your farming operation

Many farmers already partake in a form of collaborative farming, such as share farming or leasing, however these are usually seen as single entities and are often reactionary in nature, arising from a land or resourcing opportunity. Conversely, in a collaborative venture the business model and plan must come first, with the land, resources and people available being structured appropriately around the central aim of the business plan. 

As we discuss often in our podcasts, this need demonstrates again the requirement for farmers, increasingly, to educate themselves on good business practice, on top of being skilled technical operators. The greatest challenge involved in a collaborative venture is the need to change the way you think about business decisions, and change is difficult for everyone- that’s human nature!

Real world examples of applying Collaborative Farming principles to your operation


Everyone Receives a Wage

In a successful collaborative venture, every person is paid a wage from the business, from which they must pay their personal expenses, and may also receive leasing payments in which business debt must be paid from. Therefore, any new business or personal purchase has to be deemed acceptable by all directors (owners), before it can go ahead.

For example, buying a new car may suddenly become a personal, rather than business expense. This can be very challenging when you have never previously had to be accountable for your spending or had to justify what you spend money on. However, it is necessary in order for you to identify the actual profitability (or not) of your property.

Paying yourself a wage and ensuring all expenses are paid from that allows you to correctly identify exactly what the bottom line of your business is, and if it can realistically continue. These numbers can be challenging to see, but like any business, you have to know exactly how your farm is performing if you are to improve and expand.

Formal Separation of Employment for every worker

On top of everyone receiving a wage within a collaborative venture, another important feature for success is ensuring a formal separation of employment for every worker, where each person has a set job description and are accordingly paid an appropriate wage. This ensures that individuals’ skills are being used to their best advantage and every employee is able to make decisions in a structured environment.

Following from this, strong succession planning can also occur as family members can be brought in as employees with defined roles, and all possible events are planned for, including ill health, death or directors/employees choosing to leave. When planned in advance, such inevitable change does not have to cause the long term financial, physical and emotional stress that can arise on family farms operating independently with weak business, succession and operational structures.

Upskilling in relevant HR & WHS issues

Finally, in collaborative farming, as in independent farming, the need for farmers to upskill and educate themselves on relevant HR and WHS issues is absolutely crucial. No one is safe anymore from these requirements and banks won’t consider lending money without proof, as demonstrated in a written business plan, that your farm is compliant with these frameworks.

Rather than viewing this as a time-wasting ‘ticking box’ exercise, try to see it as a positive step in moving your business forward and raising the bar for farming in general. As Jeff said, farmers are now required to act and plan professionally, and this is one way of doing so.

Educating yourself is so important in achieving this, however if you are feeling overwhelmed and underskilled by this prospect, Jeff suggests hiring a ‘contract CEO’ to help make it happen. Hiring a consultant to help with bookkeeping, HR, compliance and growth can be very helpful in setting you up for success and providing some of the knowledge required for you to continue later on as a director for your business. It’s also an excellent opportunity for you to further your own professional development by treating the appointment as a training opportunity for yourself and your leadership team.

It might be challenging, but it’s worth the change

Regardless of whether you find this ‘professionalisation’ in farming challenging or not, it is important that you consider the ‘why’ in how you feel. Are you actually resistant to change? Does it feel like too great a risk, or not worth the money? Do you lack the confidence in yourself to be able to ‘think like a CEO’?

These are all understandable and surprisingly common reactions, however in business we get the results we deserve, and we have to be open to learning and changing if we want to continue farming. If we don’t become professional, our farms, both individually and collectively, will not survive.

If you would like more information on collaborative farming or to simply have a chat, please get in touch with us on 0447 184 167, or email at any time. We’d also be more than happy to help you get in touch with Jeff McDonald directly for a detailed discussion on your own needs.

By Jeremy “Hutch” Hutchings, Managing Director of Farm Owners Academy. You can listen to Hutch discuss collaborative farming and all its advantages with Jeff from Riverland Lending Services and Collaborative Farming Australia on Episode 85 of The Profitable Farmer podcast.

Until you believe in you, no one else will

Until you believe in you, no one else will

It always comes down to self-belief. 

The success you have in business can be directly attributed to your personal belief in yourself. 


There isn’t one person on this planet who has not experienced self-doubt at some stage in their life. 

Am I good enough? 

Am I worthy enough? 

Lack of belief and certainty will hold you back. 


You may fail or even look stupid – but for things to change, FIRST, YOU MUST. 

It always comes back to whether or not you think you can succeed. 

So, feel the fear – and dive in.  


Creating Value in Business

Creating Value in Business

I truly believe that a good business model trumps hard work. From my own experience with my on-farm and off-farm businesses, and through the experiences of others I have worked with, I know that a good strategy and business model are the tools that really set us free in business. Business is an intellectual sport, and we have to be willing to upskill ourselves in business so that our farm is working for us as the vehicle to achieving what we want in life, rather than the other way around.

As farmers, we may feel that our business is different from that of a restaurant, accounting firm or physiotherapy practice and that a strong business model is not relevant for us. However, most of us in agriculture are not thinking critically or strategically enough, and this is having a significant negative impact on our farming business, lifestyle, family and freedom. We must be open to different ways of doing things, different methods of expanding and different off-farm opportunities if we are to increase our wealth and expand our farm. Here I discuss how we can achieve freedom by creating greater value in our farming business, and the importance of thinking a bit differently in order to achieve this.

The importance of a solid business model (and you may not get it right the first time)

In a recent The Profitable Farmer Podcast episode I spoke to Our Cow founders Dave and Bianca, who within three years had gone from struggling small-farm owners to running a highly successful meat subscription business, working with farmers in NSW and QLD and delivering meat across three states. They knew that their farm, struggling already and then hit with drought, bushfires and floods, couldn’t support them, or the lifestyle they wanted. 

However, with some lateral thinking and a clever business model, they have created wealth and achieved their definition of what it means to be ‘’freedom farmers’ – that is, their off-farm business is creating an income that supports themselves and their family. That’s not to say they didn’t have failures; Dave and Bianca had a few failed attempts at getting their business model right. However, they finally found their perfect niche through paddock-to-plate meat subscription and have guaranteed themselves a predictable and repeatable income every month. This is a great example of the importance of a solid business model for income stability and wealth creation. 

The best thing you can do for your business

I believe that the best thing you can do for your business is to get it to a point where it can run with high performance, structure and stability, but without you. To have your business consistently turn a good profit while under management means that you have a long-term asset you would never want or need to sell, and allows you to step away and live the lifestyle you want. 

Now this process can take between three to five years to achieve, but if you’re willing to put in the work that’s required over that time, including having strong systems in place and a good reliable team, then your business can become an asset that allows you to have time away with your family – whilst still delivering a profit to you all year round. 

The business model to avoid if you want to create value

Contrary to this, many farming families across Australia are a little like a man in a van; you have a business that is reliant on you. I don’t believe there is much value in this kind of business model because the business doesn’t work if you are not physically present. This will create problems for your lifestyle, family, mental health and financial freedom. 

Great business owners understand that business is a form of leverage, and that you should be aiming, in agriculture as in any industry, to have a business that works for you, rather than you working for the business. Many of us in farming have grown up in a culture that celebrates and respects the farmer who works the hardest, longest hours outside with his team. However, what you should be doing is looking at the hours you are working and critically evaluating whether you are really using your time in the best possible way to add value to your business.

How well could your business run without you – and how do you get there?

Many farmers believe their money is made in the paddock, but this simply isn’t the case. Money is made when you are doing the critical thinking around your business model and using this to achieve leverage. Establishing a reliable team that is underpinned by strong structures and systems will enable you to step back and have time away from the farm with your family, or pursue other interests; whatever your priorities and lifestyle goals may be. 

The only thing stopping you from achieving this at a significant level is your own mind and skills. This is why it is so important to educate yourself and upskill your business knowledge; everything is possible if you are willing to learn and think a little differently. Consider, honestly, how strong your business is and how well it could currently cope under management. If you apply this rigour to your farm, a self-sustaining, profitable business that runs without you is achievable.

Making it work regardless of your ‘type’ of farming business

From my experience, I can identify three different types of farming businesses in Australia.

The first is the large, established family farm that is probably four or five generations old, has enough scale to justify expanding, and provides enough profit on its own to support multiple households, reduce debt, educate kids and create wealth. 

The second type of farm is similar to Dave and Bianca’s at Our Cow; a small first or second generation farm that often needs a second off-farm income to reduce debt, educate kids and support the family. The idea of expanding by buying additional land in the current climate is disarming, but the farm needs to expand to create increased income. 

Finally, the third type of farm may be a third or fourth generation contracting business such as harvesting, spraying or lamb marking that requires an additional full-time off-farm wage to support it. If you can identify your farm as type two or three, then diversifying your income with a complementary off-farm business is the best way to stabilise your income, create wealth and expand your farm.

How to take the next step towards off-farm income

Having off-farm revenue that supports and complements your family farm can provide you with financial and farming freedom. Learning skills to apply to an off-farm business that isn’t traditional shares or real estate, such as a small business outside of agriculture, can really take the financial pressure off your farm whilst providing you with an income that you can put back into it.  Investing in a small business that is already under management is ideal, because farms tend to be asset rich but cash poor, whilst small businesses are cash rich but asset poor. 

Many farming families are currently taking a significant risk by placing their entire financial dependence on their farm, and expecting the farm to achieve everything they need and want for themselves, their families and their lifestyles. Therefore, diversifying your income by investing in a business that complements your farm, just like Dave and Bianca did with Our Cow, reduces this pressure whilst enabling you to expand by directing profits from your off-farm business back into the farm. 

To conclude, I believe that we often ask too much of our farms and this leads us into financial stress, instability and pressure. By diversifying our income with a complementary and well-designed off-farm business we are able to create wealth, reduce debt and expand. The only way to achieve this is by prioritising our time and learning the business skills needed to think and act like a CEO. 

As farmers we often get stuck doing low value tasks or choosing farmwork over CEO-level activity. If we want to scale our farm and off-farm business then we have to focus our time on high value priorities, and give ourselves permission to set aside a full day each week to do this crucial work. By setting aside this time to focus on building out systems, strategy and structures, your farming business and off-farm business will, in time, flourish without you. 

This allows you to have time away with your family, pursue your other hobbies and interests, and have a greater quality of life. If business is an intellectual sport, then a good business model is the tool that will allow you to succeed; financially, mentally and emotionally. 

It is not our farm, lifestyle or machinery that are our greatest assets as farmers; it is our time, and how we are able to use it.  

If you would like to discuss your own farming operation and how you could look to diversify your income or improve your business skills, or to simply have a chat, please get in touch with us on 0447 184 167, or email at any time. 

By Jeremy “Hutch” Hutchings, Managing Director of Farm Owners Academy. You can listen to Hutch discuss creating value in business on Episode 87 of The Profitable Farmer podcast.

How to cure fear once and for all

How to cure fear once and for all

Everyone experiences some sort of fear from time to time.  

You might have a fear of heights, a fear of snakes, or maybe you have a fear of speaking in front of a group. 

Some of you might have inherited a farm and carry the fear of losing it (or not doing a good job with it). 

Fear is there to protect you, but sadly, it can also hinder you. 

So how do we fix it? 

The first thing is to welcome it (and not run away from it). It’s important to befriend your fear and accept it. 

If you face it, often your best life can exist just on the other side of it. But if you keep running away from it, then it seems you keep attracting situations in your life to deal with it. Not to mention all the unnecessary angst and worry you can place on yourself, which stops you from living a peaceful and happy life. 

Fear cannot exist if it weren’t for these two things: 

  1. Your thoughts  
  2. Time 

If you look under the surface, thinking is what creates the fear.   

This is why we refer to fear as “False Expectation Appearing Real.”   

You have an expectation that something might go wrong (even in 99% of cases, the fear or worry will never actually eventuate).  

Take presenting to a group as an example. You might fear that you’ll stumble and look stupid, so it is easier for you to simply not place yourself in that situation (more people fear this than almost anything else).   

If I said to you, “It’s your turn to jump onto the stage,” your mind goes wild, creating all of these stories, which produces fear. But, if I took away your ability to think, then you simply wouldn’t have had the fear.  

So, this proves that almost ALL fears are created in the mind (not in reality). So, control your thinking, and you can control not just your fear but also your life.  

One of the best things you can do to face your fear is to make quick decisions (before the fear sets in). It’s cliché but so true – feel the fear and do it anyway.  

Did you know that the number one fear humans have (most are unaware of this) is death? This is why time also impacts fear. If you knew you and your loved ones would live forever, you would be amazed at how many fears would disappear.  

Humans are designed to survive. It’s ingrained in us. This is why there is so much fear about running out of money when you are older or not having enough. Many people also worry a lot about their close loved ones dying, which creates a lot of suffering for themselves. 

Death is one reality that none of us can get away from, and the truth is, none of us really know when this day will come.  

So if you look at it, if you remove the fear of death (and find acceptance for this) and also really observe your thoughts, you can conquer your fear and lead a much happier life.  

I would say that fear is the biggest thing that holds anyone back from living their best life, so it really is worth doing some work on this.  

My biggest advice, live your life as though you know you won’t fail.  

Have a great week,  


How many of these challenges in agriculture apply to you?

How many of these challenges in agriculture apply to you?

Here is a summary of some of the biggest challenges and constraints for farm owners. How many relate to you?  

  • You don’t have clarity (goals or direction) on where you are taking the business (leads to procrastination and an unhappy team). 
  • You don’t really have your ‘pulse’ on the finances, and in turn, you ‘wing’ many decisions (leads to significantly lower profit and a distracted focus as you are unsure where to put your energy). 
  • You are the business, and thus everything relies on you (leads to stress and burnout and an unhappy family). 
  • You are in a family business, and succession is still unclear, or you are working with a sibling or parent you don’t get on well with (let’s face it, work can suck when you experience this). 
  • You can’t find a good farmhand or team member, or the one you have isn’t any good (leads to more stress and frustration – ultimately burnout). 
  • You don’t have enough scale, and you work your backside off for very little, or you can’t work out how to get the right scale (leads to wondering why you bother). 
  • You love shiny new objects, and you keep changing your business model, or you are focusing on too many things in your enterprise mix, never really getting traction (leads to working hard, but never really getting a breakthrough). 
  • You are simply not making enough profit for the risk you put in (leads to remorse and more frustration). 
  • You are stuck on the tools all week and don’t have the time or the energy to do the office work (leads to a poorly run business and missing out on the best opportunities). 

The thing is, there is a solution to everything listed above.  

If we have missed a key challenge above, please let us know by replying to this email.  

The biggest issues we see is that most people are scared to admit they have a problem in the first place.  

Once you identify (then admit) you have a problem, you are 70% of the way to getting it sorted. But in order to get it sorted, you need to put your pride to one side and ask someone who has been there before you what they did. 

This is the fastest way to sort it out. 

I was completely stuck figuring out how to grow Farm Owners Academy until I rang another brilliant coach (way smarter than me), and in 1.5 hours, he was able to show me exactly what we needed to change to continue growing. I could have gone another three years stuck. This is the power of collaborating with other farmers rather than competing with them. And essentially, this is why Farm Owners Academy was born, to build a community of like-minded farmers that want to all share and help each other rather than compete. 

If you didn’t get the chance to watch the final video in our free 3-part training series, I go into a lot of depth about what keeps farmers where they are at.  You can watch it here.  

Have a great week, 


P.S. Once a problem is shared, it is 70% solved. 


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