Mike Reskovac has been farming 14 years since starting from scratch. So, American Agriculturist asked, “If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?” Here’s his reply:
Boy that’s a good question! I had no equipment and no land, just a dream. I took on land that hadn’t been farmed in years, borrowed a lot of equipment, then started to make some of my first equipment purchases.
Mistake No. 1. I bought stuff I thought I could afford and make repairs on — one of my first mistakes. I learned how costly and time-consuming continually repairing one piece of equipment could be.
For my first four years, I bought a new (old) sprayer every year. I made necessary repairs to have it ready for spring, just to spend more time changing hoses and buying tips, valves, fittings and foam markers. I thought I owned every sprayer part imaginable, until I found myself making a run to Tractor Supply to buy more.
I should have put more money out in the beginning to buy something reliable with minimal upkeep. I began to learn that, most often, you get what you pay for.
Mistake No. 2. My experience level was beyond low, so I had my share of crop disasters. I thought I could no-till corn with a conventional planter. I tried to spray weeds — with my fixer-upper sprayer — that were way too big. I mowed down entire fields of crops due to low yields and/or poor weed control.
I didn’t purchase crop insurance for several years. Eventually, I learned how important it is to ask for advice, and heed that advice, to best utilize my resources.
Mistake No. 3. Grain storage would be another thing I’d do differently. Initially, we moved old grain bins on the main farm I was leasing. We hired a crane, tore out old foundations, poured new ones and reset the bins — saved money. Shortly after that, I built my first new grain bin.
The problem? I didn’t think ahead to have a plan for bin expansion. The following year, I doubled the acres I grew, but had minimal space for storage expansion. I should have had a plan laid out from the beginning.
Mistake No. 4. I didn’t always take time to explore all my options before purchasing supplies or equipment. I figured if someone had a product for sale that I wanted, then it was the right price.
It wasn’t until I met and married Sheilah that I realized how horrible I was at bookkeeping and wasting money. My idea of paperwork was a box full of bills and receipts. I had no way of tracking costs or expenses.
These are just a few things I’d do differently if I started over. The common theme here? Spend your money, time and resources wisely. Every little bit saved can go a long way in helping to expand your operation. Hopefully, someone else can learn from my mistakes.
Best investment No. 1. That would be Sheilah. Shortly after we married, she asked how I knew I was getting the best price for our products. That thought had never crossed my mind. She encouraged me to price products from more than one source. I couldn’t believe how much money we saved that year!
Sheilah and Mike Reskovac, and young son Cole, farm near Uniontown, Pa. Catch all their "Two Hearts, One Harvest" blogs at AmericanAgriculturist.com.