What is the Triple Bottom Line? 

The triple bottom line. You might have heard many businesses, not just farmers and ranchers talking about this concept. Basically, the idea is that you take three major things into considerations when making decsions about your business. They are: Economic, Social and Environmental. Most businesses make decisions based solely on economic considerations. If we as farmers and ranchers make decisions based just on economics we are leaving out the two other categories. If we don’t take the social and environmental aspects into consideration we can negatively effect our community, families and landscape.

Let’s take a look at the economic aspects of farming and ranching. Obviously we need to make money in order to stay on the farm or ranch. Basic financial preparedness and knowledge are essential in order to make a profit from any farming/ranching business. This means that we earn more money than we spend. Things like low inputs, minimal (or zero) debt and justifiable expenses are good places to start. Financial planning and budgeting are also key to success. If you can plan for a profit, you can achieve one. This is much better than hoping you turn a profit at the end of the year. However, there is more to a farm or ranch than just making money.

How do the decisions that you make on the farm/ranch effect your values, quality of life and community? If you are working 12 hours a day , 7 days a week, your spouse might not be happy with you. If you have kids, don’t you want to spend as much time with them as you can? How about time for other family members and friends? What about involvement in your community? There is more to life than just working. Don’t get me wrong, hard work and dedication are the keys to success, but there is more to life. Another example might be if you and your family are considering putting in a feed lot or confinement pig operation. What will your neighbors think of this decision? How about the community? What about the way people will view your farm now that you are confining animals? Will your family be in danger due to the heavy equipment required to run such an operation? These are questions you need to ask yourself if you want to ensure a sustainable future for you and your family.

The next thing to consider, which is just as important as the other categories is the environment. As farmers and ranchers we are ultimately at the mercy of mother nature. This year’s drought is a testament to that fact. Our livelihoods are also dependent upon nature. Wouldn’t it make sense to take the environment into consideration when we make decisions about the farm/ranch? Of course it does, because without it, we won’t have anything. Future generations are also dependent upon the decisions we make now. For example planting corn on the same field year after year after year is not doing the environment any favors and if it wasn’t for government subsidies, it wouldn’t be profitable either. Our job is not to make a living at the expense of the environment. Our job is to enhance the environment. If you are a crop farmer, an alternative to mono cropping corn or soybeans every year would be pasture cropping. Planting crops directly into existing pastures and changing which crops you plant where. You can also start cover cropping your fields, like Gabe Brown is doing in North Dakota with incredible results.

For all of our sakes, lets start to take economic, environmental and social aspects into consideration when making decisions on the farm/ranch.


Chris Stelzer

Chris Stelzer is a published Author, founder of Agricultural Insights and creator of many resources that help family farmers and ranchers grow their businesses. His flagship courses are the Grazing Mastery Program and The Farm Marketing Mastery Program. 

Chris Stelzer

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