Finite Farming


Saw an old friend the other day. He’s a retired farmer. We met nearly fifty years ago. He had just started farming with his father and things were about to change up on the farm.

His dad had a way of doing things and wanted his son to learn how to farm. His first job was to disc up land with a big tractor. You know learn the farm from the ground up. Day one went okay. Day two was a little different. As my friend drove the tractor through the field, he was mad because he didn’t have paper and pencil to write down all the things he was thinking about. Day three resulted in lots of crooked disc paths as he tried to write down notes. By day five, it was apparent that driving the tractor was not going to be his job on the farm.

Week two had my friend perched in the farm office working on a system to improve the farm with just pencil and paper.

It didn’t take long to get some people driving the tractor and he created some time saving systems and something he called finite farming. One of his favorite words was finite. He said that you have to practice or try new things that increase the effectiveness of a farming operation. You only had to try things for a short period of time. After a few tries or a finite number of times, you could see whether your idea worked or not. He was good about try different things, recording the results and them compare those results and change his system.

He got good results and continued to improve his ideas and methods. He said he only had to improve a little bit and his results could make a substantial difference in his farm.

He would keep track of numbers and his finite farming system was run by the numbers. He had plenty of numbers too.

He kept rack of seed population, gallons per acre of diesel fuel, cost of tools for the shop, outside labor for fixing tractors, to contract labor and tracking payroll for maximum output without paying overtime.

At the end of the day, he tracked all this work and ended up with a well-run operation that had clean well maintained equipment and was able to harvest his crops with the minimum of fuss and expense.

After a successful farming career, he sold his equipment, farms and retired. His love of numbers still works for him. He does work about a month every year doing taxes this time of year.

He still talks about keeping track of things and the necessity of doing things over and over. You have to practice a lot to get things right but you don’t have to do it over an infinite amount of time. One day you will get a skill right after some amount of time and that is a finite number. It may seem like a long time but you can get it done.

He does make me mad sometimes though. Maybe I’m a little too impatient to keep working on getting to the finite number of times to get a task done right. Patience seems like an infinite task to learn although it is a finite skill.

He told me that tax season is over and he is headed down to Florida. That makes me mad too. I wish I could write down stuff to make things better and it only take a finite number of times.