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Harvest is coming: Where’s the farm’s leader?

Getty/iStockphoto Young farmer checking field during harvest with combine in background.
Four questions to help figure out where your time is best spent.

As farms rapidly approach harvest, there’s quite a bit for the farm leader to think about. In this pre-harvest time, it’s key to rally your farm team – making sure everyone is on the same page about harvest plans, both the big picture and on a detailed level.

Once you’ve gotten your team together for pre-harvest meetings, the equipment is ready to go, and everything seems to be in a holding pattern until it’s go time in the field, there’s one more thing for farm leaders to be thinking about: their time.

Time out

That may seem like a strange concept to reconsider during a season on the farm that’s notoriously known for being time-consuming, but it could end up making a huge difference to your operation’s overall success.

If you lead a team of family members and employees (ie. you’re not the only one doing all the labor plus running the business) then you have a different overall role than everyone else, even during a super busy season like harvest.

Ask these questions

Take a step back to think about where your time is best spent on the farm by considering these four questions.

  1. What are the top goals and strategic priorities for our operation? These have a range longer than the current crop year or the next crop year. The places where you’re spending your time need to align with the farm’s strategic priorities. For example, if improving your marketing skills is a strategic priority, then the leader needs to continue keeping a close eye on marketing plans and decision-making, even while harvest is going on.
  2. What are the things in the operation that only I (as the leader) can do? This means there is currently no one else who can do these “CEO-level” tasks. Once you have listed the tasks out, label each with a priority of either 1, 2 or 3 according to what you’ve identified as most critical to your farm’s success.
  3. Who in my operation would benefit from having a chance to learn something new or take on a higher level of responsibility? If there is an intended future leader of your operation, consider what they might take on that you’re currently responsible for. Choosing some of the items that you marked with a 2 or 3 on your list could be a good start, or anything else that aligns with future direction, priorities, and goals.
  4. How can I move to managing more work versus doing it myself? Any tasks that you can shift over to acting as a manager on can free up time for you to focus on strategic priorities for your operation. It can be tempting for many farmers to want to “do it all” themselves – many people think they can get work done faster and better themselves rather than having someone else do it. But that only pulls you away from critical aspects of your operation in the long run. Try to quantify the value of your time as the farm’s CEO. Is it worth it for you to mow ditches for four hours (let’s say for a value of $600+) when you could hire someone else to do it for $60? Think carefully about where your time is best spent: what brings your operation the greatest return on the investment of your time as the CEO.

During harvest, make sure to stay connected with what’s happening in the grain markets – get a free two-week trial of our marketing information service (MarketView Basic) that includes frequent audio and video updates. Get a partner and sounding board for your marketing plan by connecting with our team of market advisors at www.waterstreetconsulting.com.

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

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