How Is Asparagus Farming Like Networking?

How Is Asparagus Farming Like Networking?

How Is Asparagus Farming Like Networking by Cynthia Greenawalt

{2:38 minutes to read} Several years ago I gave a workshop discussing the benefits of being a “farmer networker” vs. a “hunter networker” (click here for my previous article on the topic). As a farmer networker, our sights are on creating a long-term sustainable yield from nurturing and cultivating referral partners who make introductions to potential clients. One of the attendees at that workshop explained to me how my training reminded him of the way asparagus grows. Because asparagus is my favorite vegetable, I was intrigued.

He explained that he was a third-generation commercial farmer, and that asparagus was one of their primary crops. An asparagus plant doesn’t produce an edible spear until its 4th year and then continues to produce reliably until its 15th year. During the first 3 years of its life, though, it’s just sitting in the ground, not producing anything.

He explained how, during the first year of their asparagus crop, their overhead (equipment, supplies, employees, etc.) is approximately $150,000. Year two and year three are the same — $150,000 each year to support and nurture this plant. After three years, they are close to half a million in the hole. When they step into the fourth year, though, that’s when the magic kicks in.

He said asparagus is so abundant that his people are in the fields picking spears in the morning and has to send them out again in the afternoon, because new spears have already grown in their place. During this first year of yield, his family’s farm clears close to $1.8 million. And it continues to produce at this level for the rest of the asparagus plant’s life. It’s enormously lucrative.

The reason asparagus is so expensive to the consumer is that very few farmers will touch this crop. Most farmers prefer to grow bell peppers, because those plants produce immediately. Even though the bell pepper plant dies and requires replanting every year, farmers like it because it makes them money now. Though it’s an unsustainable model, farmers prefer bell peppers over asparagus, because they don’t like the idea of 3 years of cultivating without any return — even if asparagus is more profitable. My friend told me these farmers remind him of hunter networkers: They have no long-term view and want immediate results.

In farming networking, much like asparagus, you need to nurture your networking garden for a year, sometimes two, before seeing explosive results. The good news is that properly developed networking relationships (your “Power Partners”) produce a sustainable yield, and can feed your business for years, even decades.

Cynthia Greenawalt
Cynthia Greenawalt

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