January 2018
The Business of Farming

Keeping Score

Most folks I know in Alabama like sports, in some form or fashion. Football fanatics dominate fall, winter is basketball season and then the boys of summer throw the baseball around. Golfers golf, tennis players serve it up and there are even a few in Alabama who enjoy the game of soccer (although, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why). There are differences in all of the sports I just mentioned, but the one similarity is the competition factor. (For those out there who like to hunt and fish, the same principle applies … you versus the fish, deer, duck or whatever.) Competition drives us to get up early, work hard and give everything we have in us to achieve our goals.

Competition without a winner or a loser is like a book without words. Winners and losers are part of the competitive nature of sports and, as such, we must have some way to declare winners and losers. (As a side note, I am familiar with the fairly recent concept of "everybody’s a winner" and we "all get a trophy." My comment to that is – seriously? Come on now.) Anyway, we need winners and losers in sports and in life. When we win, it is gratifying and fulfilling. When we lose, it makes us hungry for success, it inspires us to do better and it incentivizes us to get off our rumps and take that next step to success.

So, in sports we keep score. There are many different ways to keep score and evaluate the game. Some sports are judged based on points scored in a given amount of time, while others might be based on accumulation of pounds of fish or who can pick up the heaviest object. I even know soccer keeps score, although I’ve never been able to stay with a match long enough to know how … I suspect one must eventually kick the ball through the little net after an excruciatingly long time.

So, what does this have to do with agriculture and, specifically, the business side of agriculture? I contend that what we do in business (and especially agricultural business) is very akin to the nature of sports competition. Producers must overcome many levels of competition to be successful. There are obstacles all around, folks who want your place in the game and factors stacked against you to make it more difficult to be successful. The last thing you want to do as a producer is hear the buzzer sound and look up at the scoreboard to find you are on the losing side. The key to the game is keeping score, knowing where you are and using your resources to maximize the potential to be on the positive side of the financial scoreboard.

Another similarity in keeping score in sports and farming is the fact that there are numerous ways to do it. Football has touchdowns, basketball has free throws and baseball has runs. These all do the same thing – they help you know who is winning the game. The formats are different, but the results are the same.

The same concept applies to record keeping in business. There are multiple ways to keep books and any of them can be used successfully to know where you are in the game. Record keeping can be accomplished with a pencil and a notebook, with some kind of advanced record keeping software or with some combination of systems that work for you.

The important thing is for you to be keeping score; that you have a system in place to determine if you are ahead or behind, so you can make adjustments.

There are a lot of resources available to Alabama farmers who are interested in keeping score for their operation. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System Farm and Agribusiness Management Team offers numerous trainings related to record keeping (aka keeping score) throughout the year in a variety of formats and locations.

If you are interested in learning how to keep score for your farming operation, contact your local Alabama Cooperative Extension System Farm and Agribusiness Management Agent or check out the team at www.aces.edu/agriculture/business-management, our Facebook site www.facebook.com/AUAgBiz or on twitter at https://twitter.com/auagbiz.


Ken Kelley is a regional farm and agribusiness management agent for Alabama Cooperative Extension System.