Where do You See Yourself in 5 Years

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

I hate that question.  I work in tech.  I have a hard time telling management, most of whom don’t work in tech, that I have no idea what changes are in store for my career.  I don’t really see myself moving to management and if you try to explain current tech trends to HR their eyes glaze over and they just wait for you to finish talking.  I like what I do and would like to continue doing it.  Tech changes constantly and if I were to guess, 5 years from now I’ll still be diligently working to stay abreast of new trends, add value, etc.  Looking back 5 years I couldn’t foresee the iPad.  I couldn’t foresee (and still don’t really understand) Facebook.  I have no idea what Microsoft will dream up next.  I don’t think we’ll use keyboards much longer though.

Looking at my farm in 5 years is a little easier.  I’m a little restrained by the economy and have no idea how to pay for this but I have a vision of how I would like to reshape the farm over the next 5-40 years.  I have plans to add greenhouses and ponds, I have a plan for pasture grazing and improvement, woodlot improvement, establishment of new tree stands, orchards, swales and general beautification of the farm.  On the topic of beautification I need to replace a number of buildings but that’s further down on the list.  More water on the farm = more life.  I need to build 6 or 7 ponds over the next few decades.

I plan to transition our primary revenue generation away from chickens to cattle.  We haven’t begun to build our beef herd yet.  I hope to divorce myself from the feed grinder as it is both dangerous and expensive to operate.  Further, it’s one more thing I have to store in a shed…a shed I need to replace.  Instead we’ll use dense swards of grass to harvest sunlight, earthworks to harvest rainfall and cows to cycle nutrients.  It’s a terribly complicated machine with no moving parts but entirely dependent on free and continued sunlight.  I plan to use a solar-powered fence charger to keep the cows where I want them.

To prevent wind and evaporation we have plans for tree plantings.  These will be primarily fruit and nut trees but I would like a larger stand of sugar maples to tap in my old age.  I better get started now!  The fruit trees will give guests another reason to come visit the farm…another over-arching goal of ours.

Everything we do should boost biodiversity, restore the local ecology, and help nurture our community.  I hope to raise big, fat cows and have room for big, fat groundhogs.  We plan to leave meadows ungrazed until the ground-nesting birds have hatched in July.  I hope friends and customers continue to come here seeking rest and inspiration…or at least entertainment.

We have given strong consideration to picking up a Fertrell dealership.  It could happen in the next 5 years though I have a lot to learn and, again, need a shed.  And a scale.  And a truck.  But it’s possible…

I anticipate my oldest son will begin to step up his involvement in the farm and will either relieve me of one or more enterprises or will start some of his own.  At 17 he should be ready to test his wings and I plan to enable him to do so.  He has always been our guinea pig so he’ll set the pattern for his siblings.  Whatever they are interested in, we are interested in.

I didn’t list revenue in my planning.  I can’t set financial goals outside of paying for the land and the improvements.  I am not a corporation.  This isn’t a machine.  This is a biological process.  Financial goals fit with biology like socks on a rooster.

These are, of course, moving targets.  These plans will likely shift as the wife and I dive deeper into our studies of permaculture.  So I guess, like tech, my farming goals aren’t entirely knowable.  It’s a best guess either way.  But it’s easier to keep my audience interested when I’m not explaining database index optimization strategies.  Yeah.

So, there you go.  The top-down view of the next X years.  That question is so much easier than career planning.  What about you?  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  Will you finally achieve your “someday“?

13 thoughts on “Where do You See Yourself in 5 Years

  1. A couple of things. When we visited Polyface, Joel said that they don’t use solar powered chargers anymore…the interns broke them at too rapid a pace. Instead they just use a rotating fleet of car batteries.

    In 5 years, I hope to retire. Yep, retire. Not retire from working but retire from the rat race. I have a looong way to go but that’s my goal. I want to be on a piece of land producing something for my family and customers. It is beyond frustrating to think about giving away the best years of my and my family’s life to a job. On a farm generating revenue…that’s where I hope to be 5 years from now. 🙂

      • Write it down. I can’t emphasize that enough.

        Did you know we have never taken a vacation? Not even a honeymoon! We married in college and were totally, totally broke. Broke. In 2001 I stopped paying for haircuts and cut out all expenses to climb out of our debt. There were things we really wanted to buy (most recently a second car) but we had our written goal in front of us, helping us play defense.

        While we lived in town I would spell out 2-year mortgage repayment plans. More kids kept magically appearing and we kept trading up houses but we always had enormous equity in our homes. I’m falling behind again now though. Farming doesn’t come cheap and I have been tucking away money other investments for a while. Time to bring it back home again.

        OK. I’m going to redouble my efforts…buckle down. Get this dirt paid for! Who is with me?!?!?

        Send your check to:
        Chism Heritage Farm
        C/O Head Farm Steward
        Chesterfield, IL

        More seriously, keep your dream in focus…and thanks for reminding me to keep my own in focus. Another part of the 5-year plan needs to be to end the daily 134 mile commute. My boss reads my blog so I should add that working from home regularly counts as ending the commute…cause I like my job…sir.

        • whoa – 134 miles daily?? Puts my 60 km in perspective. We were once as broke as you describe – we’d used up all our savings, had a toddler and a baby on the way. We didn’t owe anything, but we didn’t HAVE anything either, and didn’t see a way forward. We borrowed the money from my Dad for my husband to take a “build your business” type course, and decided we’d give it six months. The course required him to choose a tangible goal, and put a picture of it on his keyring, so he’d always be aware of it, and it had to be too big to put in his pocket….within six months we had a second hand version of the car he’d picked as his goal (we had no car at the time), and had created a savings plan again, and paid back my Dad. It was hard – like you say, no frills at all. I walked everywhere – groceries, doctor, library, parks (we lived in a town), we didn’t have dates, we didn’t buy clothes, we didn’t buy take out food. And we continued that regime for a couple of years after the goal setting exercise, to build up savings. It can be done.

        • LOL! We are at least a couple decades ahead of you if not three. We’ve been living our dreams for the past 31 years – small ones along the way while striving for the bigger ones. P.S. Everyone needs a REAL vacation once in a while! P.S.S. I hear you on that commute – 130 and sometimes more here!

  2. Hey, sounds like our plan too, although I’m not that young…in body. And no ponds here unfortunately, but I do have to say I second the grinder thing – I like viewing ours occasionally as a farm antique and going off to move to move the cows to the next paddock to harvest the grass that grew almost for free.

    Side note – we have always used the Rv batteries for our remote fences and they work great – never trusted solar here in the gray PNW 🙂

      • Matron gets the same kind of weather that I do, which means not enough sunny days to keep spark in the wire on a consistent basis. When I get my fence, it’s going to have to be a battery too.

          • I’m good with that trade – 2 acres of hay cut yesterday morning, and we’ve had sporadic showers all day today, despite the forecast for a whopping 3 days of sun. BUT if I traded my rain for your hot temps, I’d be risking my broilers when they go out on the field in a couple of weeks. Hmmm, have to think this one through.

  3. We’ve just had to rejig our plans recently, and may have to again, but as we see it right now, in 5 years the goal is to be completely self sufficient in vegetables, tree fruit, chicken, eggs and lamb. The plan includes raising enough each year to pay for the meat we keep for ourselves, as well as to pay for the inputs for the total enterprise. Tasks that need to be done in the 5 years include replacing the 50+year old roof of the barn, preparing for and acquiring sheep – that’s electric fencing, water system of some sort, shelter, and the livestock. We want to ramp up the broiler production but have yet to get serious about marketing it, which would be an important component. The plan includes the raising of two weaner pigs every other year, one for our freezer, the other to sell to cover costs. Again, fencing and livestock are financial considerations.

    Around the 5 year mark, we would need to take another look at things and decide whether we would get into breeding our own sheep, or continue to buy lambs to grow out. Better resilience in breeding our own, but it depends on what else is going on.

    In five years we are likely to be helping both kids with college tuition. We have been saving for this, but anticipate that for one child in particular, expenses could be ongoing for several years. This will impact what money we can put toward the farm.

    We have about 20 years before retirement. We had anticipated that in 5 years, one of us could cut back off farm hours, but thanks to the market issues of the last few years, we are reconciled to working the full 20. I’m thankful we have work that we like (well, I like mine anyway).

    We talk about other things – ponds, woodlot, solar, etc, but it’s not part of the 5 year plan. And of course all plans are subject to change.

  4. Glad I asked you that question about the farm and not about tech. 😀 I’m proud of you and your family and the progress you are making. It’s always interesting to talk to you about it. And we’re happy to reap the results of your hard work in the best chicken for our table. Eating some this evening. 🙂

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