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CHECK YOUR SKILLS: Farmers develop many skills that can be applicable to off-farm employment. Before taking an off-farm job, do a self-assessment of your skill sets.

Consider these 4 questions before taking off-farm job

Farmers must be able to balance their home operations with their new off-farm job.

Many producers utilize off-farm jobs to generate additional income and procure benefits. Some do so by choice while others find it a necessity, especially when starting an operation.

This raises the question of how to balance off-farm employment while maintaining a successful operation at home.

When deciding whether you can (or should) manage an off-farm job, here are four things to consider:

1. What are your financial needs? The first thing to do is assess your financial needs. This includes a review of family living expenses and may require developing a personal spending budget. This will help you decide how much additional income is needed to support the family at the desired income level.

Do you need more cash income or are you primarily trying to get health insurance, retirement funding or have other needs?

Understanding the expenses that may be fixed — or could help secure your peace-of-mind — can bring clarity to your additional income needs.

2. Will you have time? The next step is looking at the time available to commit to this off-farm endeavor. Here’s a few questions you might need to answer:

  • Is your business seasonal or year-round?
  • Can you work mornings or evenings and keep the business going?
  • How flexible (or rigid) is your business activity schedule?
  • Do you have other obligations that are non-negotiable?

Answering these questions can help you set a realistic time commitment to your new job.

3. Will it interfere with the farm? Another important consideration is the potential for the off-farm activities to interfere with your business.

If your schedule will be changed in a way that hurts the business’s financial performance or desired growth, you may need to re-evaluate the number of hours and amount of money that will be required to supplement your family’s needs.

You should also consider how multiple job will affect your family life, rest and relaxation. These may be more important than the financial measures to some operators.

4. What are your skills? You might want to do a self-assessment of your skill sets.

Most farmers have a broad range of abilities, significant self-discipline and a strong work ethic. Consider your technical skills. Are you good at welding or repair? Do you have animal husbandry skills or agronomic or horticultural knowledge?

Also, consider the management skills you’ve developed over time. Have you been successful in process efficiency, time management, work prioritization or record-keeping? Think about how those skills might be applied to another business as an employee or manager.
In some cases, producers can use their strongest skill sets to create an additional side business of their own, such as specialized fresh cow care or ultrasound technician work.

Balancing off-farm employment can benefit your personal and business goals and, if well-managed, can help you obtain your desired income level. But make sure you’ve considered the benefits and challenges; this takes some thought and planning.

Zweigbaum is vice president and business consultant at Farm Credit East.

Source: Farm Credit East, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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