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A Lesson from "Survivor": Alliances Get Reward

Farm Business Management Update, October/November 2004

By Daniel Osborne, Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent, Farm Business Management, SW

Fall is here and so is another season of the hit reality TV series "Survivor." Unfortunately, the show will not be the same without local celebrity Big Tom being a part. Tom Buchanan of Smyth County was certainly . . . entertaining. (I guess that's the word to describe him.) If you have watched this series, hopefully you have picked up on some principles that you can apply to your farm business.

One of the main principles to be learned is that alliances can be very beneficial in achieving success. On the show, those that remained independent were the first to go when their team lost an immunity challenge. In farming, it is often the same thing. When hard times hit, the farmers who are more independent are usually the first to go out of business.

So what are the opportunities for alliances in farming? First, opportunities for alliances exist on the revenue side by working with other farmers in marketing efforts. Some examples include 1) combining harvested crops to achieve a more desirable quantity, attain a more appropriate sales mix, or improve price negotiating power; 2) combining advertising efforts to increase demand; and 3) controlling the supply of harvested crops.

Next, opportunities for alliances exist on the expense side of farming. Farmers can join efforts in price negotiations for farm supplies. They can share labor, equipment, and other resources to improve cost efficiencies. They can also work together to determine the direction of their farm plans, so their efforts are not counter-productive to each other.

Lastly, opportunities for alliances exist in promoting the good of agriculture. Examples of accomplishments of such an alliance include 1) educating farmers and the general public, 2) influencing legislation for the benefit of farmers, and 3) protecting and defending agricultural enterprises. A wise man once said, ". . . every city or house divided against itself will not stand." If farmers work with each other and not against each other, they too can promote the good of agriculture.

I certainly would not encourage farmers to use all the strategies exhibited on "Survivor." The lying, cheating, and backstabbing are some of the things that will not pay off in the long run. However, the value of alliances is something for which farmers should take notice. It could be what determines your survival.

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