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Make the most of your farm’s off seasonMake the most of your farm’s off season

Use your farm’s winter season like a pro athlete’s off season.

Darren Frye

December 5, 2016

3 Min Read

As a farmer, you know there are times when you have to ‘put your head down’ and work really hard to get things done. Crop farms recently completed another one of those seasons – harvest.

Busy seasons mean extra hours for everyone on the farm – most of all, for you as the farm’s leader. During those times, it can be tough to keep track of day to day operations, let alone lead and manage your farm business.

There are also seasons that aren’t as structured. That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do in those periods. It just tends to be on a bit different time table. We’re getting into the longest stretch of this less-structured time – the ‘office’ season.


Completing harvest and entering the winter office time can initially bring a little relief. Maybe you plan some relaxation – maybe even take a vacation or two. But time passes quickly, and it can suddenly seem there isn’t very much of the office season left to do everything you need to do to prepare for the next year.

Train like a pro

The key is to plan out your office season, as you’d plan your busy seasons. Think about it like this: college and professional sports teams continue their scheduled training during the off-season. The coaching staff doesn’t leave that training up to chance – they make sure it’s scheduled and ongoing.

Then, when it’s time to compete, the athletes are primed and ready to go. They’re not scrambling around two or three weeks before their first game, trying to make up for the muscle or agility they lost by not training during their off season.

Build your winter plan

A farmer can take control of their own office season by creating an off season plan or schedule when harvest is complete. First, make sure to build in some vacation and time to spend with family members. They’ll appreciate you being intentional about this.

Then, create a schedule that includes time for you to focus on the tasks of a farm CEO, and do future-oriented planning. Engaging in this planning for your farm is like what off-season training does for a pro athlete – it primes and prepares you for your season of competition.

Ask yourself: What are the top two or three skills or activities I could learn that would help take my farm to the next level? In your schedule, include how and when you’ll work on building those skills. How will you get that knowledge? Who do you need to include?

More ideas for your plan

-Review the 2016 crop year from a financial perspective, after you assess how your fields and varieties performed. Make sure to analyze return on investment from your 2016 inputs.

-Meet with employees, individually and as an entire team. In the individual meetings, you might conduct a review with each employee about their performance. In the team meeting, you could lead a group discussion where together you review the past year, discuss the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and brainstorm areas of focus for improvement for 2017.

-Planning for 2017. What will be your strategy for success in 2017? Maybe it means a different approach than the previous year. What will financial success look like for your farm? What will you need to do to make sure you get there? Consider working with a team of advisors who understand your operation and can help you make plans to reach your goals.

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

About the Author(s)

Darren Frye

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.

Visit Water Street Solutions

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