A recent University of Minnesota extension survey of farmers in southwest Minnesota shows that a positive attitude can make or break farm business success. The survey included questions on formal education, farmers’ attitudes toward management, their situation and other potential reasons that are frequently mentioned by farmers when discussing performance.

The study farms were ranked on the basis of net farm income per operator and on rate of return on assets (ROA). Then, they were divided into the top 25 percent and the remaining 75 percent groups for each measure, explains Kent Olson, University of Minnesota extension economist. The results were then compared to see where the top group was significantly different from the other 75 percent of farmers.

Here’s a list of factors which have an overall positive impact on either net farm income per operator or ROA:

  • The farmers’ attitude that they control their own destiny and that farming has a bright future.
  • Setting and striving for goals.
  • Paying a higher wage (for good people).
  • Being involved in a custom work enterprise to increase the efficiency in using their machinery.

In addition, farmers in the top group were more likely to agree with the statement that their concern for the environment affected their decisions. More profitable farmers were more likely to own more crop acreage and have more employees, but this may be more of a result of profitability than a cause of higher profitability, says Olson.