Farm goals list - review + ideas

@dornawcox @ldemmel @lpuro @mstenta @jgaehring @zweig716 @aislinnpearson @DaveLlewellyn … anyone else?

Hi all - I’m working on the Digital Coffee Shop, which is a cool farmer benchmarking system using farmOS 2.x data format and the farmOS aggregator.

One of the key elements in the system is that producers can use their goals to both identify indicators of interest which track against progress toward a farm-level goal (like Soil Health). This works better than selecting the indicator alone as they can often be rather abstract (like Water Infiltration) and it isn’t always clear how they connect to real farm outcomes.

The list of goals are set by the Coffee Shop (not by users), so I want them to be broad enough but also tight enough so that we can use them effectively… so no more than 6 - 7 separate goals (max!).


HELP! Is this the correct goals list?

Am I missing a key area?

Are the definitions clear?

Would you use this same list in your onboarding (or close?)

Through some initial discussions, here’s the list of goals (or targets… not sure of wording here) and their respective definitions.

Goals are ranked by users from 0 - 5. 0 means you never consider this in your operation, 5 means you always consider this in your operation.

These goals may overlap - try to consider each of these terms independently. For example, if you care about soil structure only as it relates to profitability, mark profitability high and soil structure lower.

  • Profitability
    • My operation maximizes profit
    • possible indicators: per acre profit, margin from ecosystem services per acre…
  • Risk Minimization
    • The financial risk of my operation stays low
    • possible indicators: P/N concentration in field runoff, tree density on high sloped areas…
  • Soil Biology
    • The soil on my operation has diverse, robust and active biology
    • possible indicators: soil health benchmark (includes soil respiration, carbon, etc.)
  • Soil Structure
    • The physical and chemical makeup of my soil is optimized
    • possible indicators: cornell soil health test (includes porosity, minerals, etc.)
  • Environmental Stewardship
    • The environment in and around my operation is diverse and robust.
    • possible indicators: bird counts, insect diversity score, etc.
  • Product Quality
    • My products are the highest quality for their intended application
    • possible indicators: nutrient density score, proteins % in grains, etc.

In case you want more detail, you can see the basic connections (goals --> indicators --> measurements) here…

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Split “Soil structure” into “Soil structure” and “Soil fertility”; possible indicators would be subsets of indicators in the NRCS soil health assessment tool.

Might want to set up a conversation with Methods group in a couple months to cross-walk.

Do you want to include some sort of efficiency/time allocation metric? “We are allocating our time in ways that allow us to continue to improve the operation while balancing work/life” Indicators - profitability/work hours?

For profitability - should it be “optimizes” instead of “maximizes”?

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So a few quick thoughts:

The goal is to reasonably parse (ie provide 2 - 4 most relevant) indicators/measures (soil health score, profitability question set, nutritional density score, etc.) efficiently. So I don’t want more than 6ish (8ish maybe?) goals because the user experience falls off I think with too many.

Also, each goal will connect variably with each indicator… so an indicator can rank 1 on profitability but 5 on soil structure (meaning it help only a little toward you profitability goal, but very much toward your soil structure goal).

So with that context…

When I talked to people about soil in the BFA community, they felt that biology and structure were different. They were fully independently motivated (ie unrelated to any other parameter) to increase soil biology. I think the motivation was similar to environmental stewardship or something… so after much debate I decided to separate that.

I think fertility could well capture soil biology, perhaps just renaming it that could work to clarify that distinction that people seem to have.

re. people’s motivations, @DanT also brought this up… decided to reword as follows and separate two questions (goals for your operation versus personal motivations). Surprisingly, Dan found that this motivations question actually created a very positive response (ie not annoyed that they were filling this out) and ‘humanized’ the interaction a bit… so we decided to repeat it this year.

Finally… we saw the motivation quesitons that openteam created and argued for a long time about merging them, but fundamentally while the qustions were similar, they were actually a bit different. I definitely would like to discuss it in the next methods meeting to see if we can coalesce or adjust to ensure that the key elements are shared.

I think we’re going to start a sub-topic on onboarding forms to try to nail some of these things out over the next year (not necessarily just for openteam hub/network farms which I know the methods group has focused on, but more how do we create a common onboarding for farms generically… think common college application thing).




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Thanks for sharing the delineation between goals and motivations, @gbathree.

I think the goals listed make sense. I also think about the way farmers intend to progress and improve their operation to (1) manage better, more easily in order to (b) advance into other markets that can improve the operation/bottom line… But perhaps these goals are all secondary and can be a bit of an outcome of meeting a range of the primary goals you suggest…

For main motivations, I wonder if something around “support rural community” would be one of them? (I know you didn’t ask for feedback here, but… :slight_smile: )

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So this came out of many discussions but the most elucidating and clear was with ALL the gregs (greg richardson, gregory landua, and me)…

What was clear was we (greg l and greg a) kept asking (greg r) about if he wanted credits, or what they wanted to measure and the answer was mushy. Until we dug in and asked broader questions about he actually cared about (the big why questions), things kept being mushy. When we asked the big why, this list (more or less) floated up. And what he didn’t know (and wanted to know!) was how their actual big why goals connected with what they should be measuring…

So goals first, then measurements (pants first, then shoes). I think you all came to the same basic conclusion.

@ldemmel I added a community one to the motivations

@jherrick I also broke out soil into the traditional 3 groups (biology, fertility / chemistry, and structure)… just because it’s clearly a rubrick everyone’s aware of and there are real differences in priority based on a given operation (and it didn’t totally overwhelm my # of goals).