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3 tips for the busy farm leader during harvest

Prepare, prioritize and delegate for best results.

As we approach harvest time – or maybe you’ve already started – it’s always an exciting moment to be part of a farm operation. There’s a lot of anticipation about the crop that we’ve grown. It’s time to finally learn the results of all our hard work. There’s also much to do to get ready for a season where it can feel like we’re moving non-stop.

Taking some time ahead of harvest season to think through what you and your team will need to do can save you time – and headaches – when all the work kicks into gear. Otherwise, it can be tough trying to manage your team while also figuring out what you need to prioritize next out of the many tasks and other work you’re responsible for.

Three tips

Here are three ideas that can be helpful to work through – before your busy harvest season takes off.

1: Prepare it. When we think about preparing for harvest, we might think mainly about getting the equipment ready that we’ll need to use. As a farm leader, we need to go beyond equipment prep and think about several other areas as well. Make sure to consider any needed logistical preparation, and safety preparation and checks.

Think about how you need to prepare your farm’s team for the busy season. You might have a pre-harvest meeting with all employees and others working in the operation to talk through harvest-related reminders and safety reviews and preparations. Maybe you can also include a way to thank them for the hard work and additional hours they’ll be putting in this fall.

2: Prioritize it. As the farm’s owner and leader, you feel the weight of responsibility for your operation and what’s happening. That’s to be expected – but it can also lead to you feeling like you have to personally make sure everything is getting done, and done right. Sometimes that brings farm leaders to do tasks that they really can’t afford – time-wise and financially – to be doing themselves.

The key is to ask yourself what the core things are that no one else can do in the operation – what only you as the leader can do. Then, you must find ways to prioritize those items so that they get done, even when harvest is in full swing. It might feel wrong to be spending time in the office when everyone else is out in the field. But that’s exactly where your operation needs you to be as the farm’s leader: at the helm (steering wheel) of the ship.

3: Delegate it. This goes hand in hand with figuring out what your priorities are as the leader. The next right step is delegating the non-essentials as much as possible to help free up your time a bit more. Make sure you’re delegating to the person in the operation who has the most overall experience in that area already or who needs to learn that particular task for the future anyway. You can take some time ahead of the busy season, if possible, to train them in what they’ll need to know and do.

You won’t necessarily want to be fielding basic questions when you need to be focusing on other things, so consider putting together a brief document or process for the task that includes FAQs (frequently asked questions) or basic steps to walk them through if they forget how to do something.

Consider marketing plans

Another element of your responsibilities on the farm that don’t stop just because it’s harvest season are your marketing and merchandising plans and decisions. Figure out now how you’re going to handle them during harvest – you can get in touch with our market advisors for a trusted partner.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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