California grower Philip Bowles has the knack for choosing the right words or phrases to add a punch to whatever point he wants to get across. When it comes to discussing the business of growing and marketing alfalfa hay, he’s a master. Consider the following examples from a presentation he gave at the Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference a few years back:

Written contracts: “Getting paid means having a clear understanding of what the buyer is buying, at what price and under what terms. This means a written, signed contract, not a conversation that two people understand differently. Handshake deals are not just unsanitary, they are ways to lose friends.”

Recordkeeping: “An accurate accrual accounting system can tell you if something is going awry long before you wake up to a nasty surprise. Simple cash accounting is like going to the coroner instead of the doctor. You will get a good diagnosis too late.”

Inventory control: “Handwritten ledgers, incomprehensible statements and selling the same lot to two people because you had bad inventory controls belong in the days of farm-made soap, and are just ways to lose business.”

Choosing a variety: “Use (university) variety trials, not the baseball game tickets a salesman gave you, to make a decision you will have to live with for five years.”

Pole barns for storing hay: “Full stackyards tell the buyer that you are overstocked and desperate. Empty stackyards say your hay is desirable, priced right and he’d better hurry up and put his mark on that stack or the other guy will snatch it first.”

C.O.D. as preferred payment: “I’d rather get $130 in cash than $150 in promises.”

Walking away from a potential sale: “ ‘Not at all’ is my way of dealing with shady characters, because even if you get paid, the sleaze rubs off on you.”

Striving to produce quality: “Your reputation, your future, rides in every bale that leaves your farm.”

Horse vs. dairy markets: “Thehorse market is a different kettle of fish altogether. That is why I am happy to sell our horse hay to a reliable, honest dealer who specializes in this market and is equipped to deal with the dozens of mom-and-pop feed stores and individual stables that constitute that market.”