About FarmPatterns

Farm patterns are ways of running any farm, ranch or other agricultural enterprise to make life simpler and yet deliver better results.

Farm patterns can cut your workload by making the farm easier to understand and run. At the same time they help cut costs, improve returns and get the fun back into farming.

After all, the farm lifestyle is what keeps most of us farming. It sure beats sitting at a desk in an air-conditioned office in the city, paying city prices for fake food and having a lousy work life imbalance.

Why are they called farm patterns? We’ll get to that shortly…

Forces that farm patterns can resolve include:

  • Most farmers battle weeds, markets and weather while juggling finances, family and time. It’s not easy and for most it is getting harder.
  • The old ways of integrated systems worked well back in the 1950s and 1960s but they didn’t deliver today’s yields.
  • Today’s yields don’t deliver the profits needed by today’s lifestyle demands.
  • Simple answers from chemical companies and advisers just end up costing most of what they deliver or worse.

So, it’s time to take back the power and get the farm system running the farm instead of hoping that farm chemicals will do the job.

It’s hard to work cattle out on the range where each one has to be brought to a stop and got into the right position for branding, treatment, castration etc. It’s much easier if you get a herd of them into a set of stockyards and then into a race or run or alley. This way you can work where you and the cattle are safe and where they are easily handled.

These farm patterns work in a similar way to that. They funnel forces that impact you and your farm into a corral where they can be managed more effectively.

That is what farm patterns do, they just make it easier to manage things that used to be problems and instead deliver possible solutions.

As a result, the farm will be easier to run, will take less time, will have fewer difficult or impossible problems and yet will be more profitable.

That’s not a bad return for spending a little time thinking about things in a new way. There’s nothing weird or difficult about them, they just make it easier to see solutions where none may have been visible before.

Not all will work on your problems. Not all will work for you.

However, you only have to use one farm pattern well to start getting benefits and you can use any of them without any cost to you.

All of them work on many farms already. Each of these farm patterns was “harvested” from successful ranches, farms, sheep stations, cattle runs or orchards in many different countries.

So why are they called farm patterns?

Back in the late 1970s, a team led by Christopher Alexander wrote a series of books of which the key ones were The Timeless Way of Building and A Pattern Language.

The books were about architecture. They showed how a switched-on person could design anything from a whole geographical region to a nook in a wall of a house. The books listed the tried and true “patterns” that the team had discovered. Each of these patterns had been developed by humans over thousands of years.

Each was simple enough to use yet it was powerful.

The books cleared a lot of the mists and myths surrounding architecture and made it back into something that could potentially be done by the average smart person with a fistful of patterns.

A shirt pattern allows you to make a shirt for a male or a female in cotton or silk in red or blue with one pocket or two, short or long sleeves and so on.

In a similar way, Alexander’s patterns made it possible for users to make houses that were all different while following certain “universal rules”.

My friend Joyce Wilkie of Allsun Farm lent me her copy just after I retired from farming and from being a farm adviser for the NSW Department of Agriculture. This was a job similar to the county agent’s in the USA.

She knew that I had a lot of understanding of farming that I wanted to crystallize for farmers and graziers and that I was looking for a way to do that simply, easily and in a form that could be passed on to others.

Patterns did the trick.

A simple way to look at the patterns is to view each as basically a funnel that focuses all the pressures on any issue and pours them into a satisfactory result.

Some problems are difficult to solve without an example. Patterns provide the example and funnel the forces into a satisfactory result.

I have spent the 17 years since gathering and refining the farm patterns that are steadily appearing on this website. They are by no means finished. There is lots of polishing to do. However, I believe that they are an effective set of tools that will work for many farmers.

And these are not the only patterns that apply to farming and grazing. You may have found some others already and you may strike still more along the way. These are just the ones I have corralled into this website. There are more than 1,000 of them on my computer. Not all will make the final cut, but most will.

No-one has necessarily called them patterns, nor have they had the names I have given them. However, they have all been used by dozens or millions of farmers over the years. Some will need to be renamed. Some will be merged with others. Some will be split into multiple smaller patterns.

So, please have a look at them as they grow in number and depth and see whether any of them is useful to you. If it is, use it with all the necessary care until you find the best way to put it into practice.

If one is no use to you, move on and look for others that may work for you.

And provide as much feedback as you can through the comments, so we can improve them for you.

Each comment is moderated before being published, so it may take a day or two for your feedback to display.

Thank you for your interest,

Michael Burlace.

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