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November 24, 2023
It’s fun, isn’t it, to head to a farm and ranch supply store on Black Friday. While the rest of the world argues over big screen televisions and fights for parking spaces, farmers are picking up great bargains on a toolbox, or a gun safe, or a new socket set to wrap up under their Christmas trees.
Or — if you’re like my folks — new boots for the family, wrapped and waiting for their fashion show on Christmas morning.
Black Friday gets its name because it’s the retailers’ harvest — their chance to end the year in the black.
And while the tradition of bargain hunting is alluring, I think maybe we’re missing an opportunity in farm country. What if we took Black Friday and used it to review our past year’s farm business strategy and plan for the next year? To keep our farms in the black, as it were.
Every successful farm family I’ve ever interviewed has a business plan for the operation. Now, they may be organized on paper into various business entities. They may include many generations and many family members, or it might just be a parent and a child farming together. They may be solely crop farms, livestock farms or some combination of both. But the farm families that are making it work have taken the time to strategize and plan.
Farm families can do this at any point in the calendar, of course. Some set up quarterly meetings in person, or via calls. But I suggest there’s no time like Black Friday to set up a farm family business strategy session.
Think about it. You’ve likely got the extended family gathered together for the holiday, with some staying through the weekend to hunt. You’re probably wrapped up with fall harvest, so you might have some preliminary yield data to discuss from cab observations, at least. And it’s a month out before that end-of-year December rush for farm taxes.
It’s a great time to discuss the past year and look forward to the next.
We talk a lot about how 4-H and FFA teach our youth how to run meetings, right? Well, now’s the time to put that to use.
You may not need formal parliamentary rules, but at least decide the ground rules of your family farm meeting. Who leads discussion? How will you vote and decide? How do you encourage everyone to have their say? Remember, this is a time for each member of the farm family to take stock, provide insights and expertise, and have a voice.
Next, make an agenda of what you want to discuss during the meeting, and who will present. If one of your family members leads the livestock section of the farm, have them present the year-end report on the herd. For example, how many calves were born, weaned and marketed? What health challenges were there? What unexpected expenses cropped up? What tools would they like to purchase for the following year? What does the next year’s marketing forecast look like?
Have reports from each farm enterprise and the family member in charge of that enterprise. And don’t forget the family living update from your spouse, or the family member in charge of living expenses and activities. That’s as much a part of your farm family business as crop inputs.
End the meeting with a look ahead to the next quarter or six months of the farm operation. Are there marketing opportunities that need discussed? Are there any purchasing discounts for your inputs for the next year? Is there a side enterprise that a family member might like to add to the operation for added income? Are there equipment or land purchases that need discussed?
The point is to look ahead and at least talk through ideas and options now, so that when the time comes, you’re ready to jump on opportunity.
It’s also a good way to bring in the younger generation’s input — whether that’s something they brought back from school, or an idea they saw at another farm, or a concept they saw at a farm show or farmer meeting. Encourage them to present a business plan and talk out their ideas.
A farm family meeting is a great way to make sure your farm stays in the black this Black Friday.
What would you add to a farm family meeting? Let me know at [email protected].
Editor, Kansas Farmer
Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.
Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.
While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.
She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.
Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.
Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.
“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”
She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.
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