November 28, 2022
On many farms, we’re entering one of the best times of year to work on internal improvements – the farm’s off-season. The winter off-season allows quite a bit more time and opportunity for farm leaders to consider what they really want for their farm operations, and how they’re going to make it happen.
In terms of how to make the farm’s big goals happen – from an operational perspective – one thing I’ve seen help many farms and farm leaders is to put processes in place.
Where to start
Some farm leaders might already be using formal processes in certain areas of their farms, especially if their operation involves multiple businesses or has a high level of complexity. For others, this could be a new concept to help improve the operation.
Often, most farmers start implementing processes in the production-related areas of their operation. That makes sense because processes are most effective when the task or application is something that’s repeated multiple times during a set time period – whether that’s planting, harvest, or the calendar year.
Many farmers have successfully put processes in place for planting and harvest-related tasks. One simple way to implement a production process is to create a checklist of everything that needs to happen. This can also be helpful for your farm team when it comes to doing safety checks on equipment, for example.
Production-related processes are a good place to start. Think of tasks or activities that are completed multiple times or by different employees – but need to have the same basic steps completed each time for a successful outcome.
A process might also make sense for an activity that’s only done maybe once or twice a year but has multiple steps or is critical for efficiency and safety. One example is off-season maintenance for each piece of equipment – the process can describe, step by step, the way you’d like it done in your operation. Then if you hire a new employee, they can be trained more easily and have a helpful written guide to follow the first few rounds.
There are some other areas of the farm where putting a process in place might not first come to mind but can be very effective. One could be around business decision-making. This can be helpful if you have multiple owners or people in the operation who are involved in making business decisions for the farm.
A helpful process might lay out the different areas of decision-making and include who is responsible for each area. Then, it can be broken down further into dollar amounts for the decisions. Some operations with multiple decision-makers may want to lay out what types of decisions or dollar amount levels certain decision-makers can make independently, and which require another person to be involved or consulted in the decision.
Farms have found that being able to use a process chart can help to streamline decision-making and make it more efficient – especially in operations where there’s a lot of complexity or multiple decision-makers involved.
One business area of the farm that can benefit from a decision-making process is the farm’s marketing. Farmers have found that getting some help with this from our market advisors can ease their minds. The advisors help farmer clients with planning and execution around marketing decisions and help keep them up to speed on the current rapidly-changing grain market situation – and how it impacts their operation.
Get a free two-week trial of our marketing information service (MarketView Basic). Your free trial includes regular audio and video updates, technical analysis, recommendations and more. Learn more about our market advisor programs and offerings at www.waterstreetconsulting.com.
About the Author(s)
CEO, Water Street Solutions
Darren Frye grew up on an innovative, integrated Illinois farm. He began trading commodities in 1982 and started his first business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. In 1994 he started a consulting business, Water Street Solutions to help Midwest farmers become more successful through financial analysis, crop insurance, marketing consulting and legacy planning. The mission of Finance First is to get you to look at spreadsheets and see opportunity, to see your business for what it can be, and to help you build your agricultural legacy.
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