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December 20, 2021
When it comes to the winter off-season on the farm, what first comes to mind? Maybe you first think about fieldwork that needs to be done right after harvest. Maybe you think about book work and office work that happens as well. Or maybe you think about when you’re going to take that well-deserved vacation.
The winter off-season can be a very valuable time for the operation – especially if you make clear plans ahead of time for how you’re going to use it. Weeks when you and your team aren’t going full-tilt in the field can be really useful and can actually help make your operation more efficient and successful in the busy times.
Getting a plan in place for the off-season is the key. It comes down to asking yourself this question about your off-season time: This winter, what do I want to invest in my operation? What can we be working on or doing now that’s going to make things easier for us when we’re running full steam ahead during planting (and the growing season and into harvest)?
Set aside some time to plan the rest of your farm’s off-season. I’d recommend doing that as soon as possible – perhaps this week if you can squeeze it in before holiday celebrations kick off.
Here are four elements to consider including in your plan. Be sure to set up time for each on your calendar – and on your team’s calendar or schedule if you have one.
Time for longer-range planning. The winter off-season is ideal for thinking further into the future – the next five to ten years or so – and doing some long-range planning and goal-setting for your operation. Plan to work with your advisor on this. This can also be a good time to make sure your farm’s financial information is in order and prepped for any winter lender meetings.
Time for prepping with efficiency in mind. Some operations have found that using the winter off-season as a time to prepare equipment and other aspects of the farm can help bring greater efficiency when the busy season hits. It might seem too early to be thinking about the logistics of the next growing season – but walking through what needs to be done and then setting clear deadlines with your team about what needs to be prepped, by when, can really help.
Time to recharge. This can be a tough one for some farm leaders – but time away can actually make you more effective and bring more energy to your work. Whether it’s a getaway vacation with your spouse or a staycation on the farm, it needs to be a time when you truly don’t touch any farm responsibilities for about a week, at least. This can be a good opportunity to put your successor leader in charge for a little while as a trial run that you can discuss together later.
Time for new learning. The off-season is also a great time to work on learning something new that will benefit your operation through your leadership. Alternatively, you could work to further your knowledge in something you’ve already started learning about to advance your operation. Consider reading one business book or attending one business seminar that isn’t specific to farming – you will likely come away with some fresh ideas and approaches.
Another topic on farmers’ minds moving into 2022 is marketing plans – and where the grain markets may be heading into the new year. A tailored marketing plan that’s flexible with market moves is key.
Our market advisors partner with and bring education around different marketing tools. They also help farmer clients with planning and execution around marketing decisions.
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. Or learn more about our market advisor programs and offerings at www.waterstreetconsulting.com.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.
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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