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What’s your farm’s off-season plan this winter?

Finance First: This is when top farms start pulling ahead.

Darren Frye

December 4, 2023

3 Min Read
Snow-covered cornstalks with farmstead in background
Getty Images/Richard Hamilton Smith

As the fall harvest season and 2023 crop year winds down on many farms, it’s a time where there are some clear shifts going on. With less time-sensitive production work to do, everyone’s attention moves toward the many other tasks that need to get done in the operation.

With the next couple months available for much of this “off-season” work, the biggest can be knowing what to do, and in what order. Sometimes it’s true that work expands to fit the timeframe that’s available for it to get done – and this can happen in any business, including farms, making things less efficient.

The farm leader has an important role in changing this. The farm’s off-season is actually one of the greatest opportunities that an operation has to become more efficient and set themselves apart from the competition. But to take full advantage of that, it requires some intentional planning from the farm’s leaders.

Planning it out

This doesn’t mean that nobody takes any time off or goes on any type of vacation this winter. What it does mean is that there is a careful plan in place for what’s going to happen, and when, during the off-season to set the farm up for the best possible success in 2024.

In fact, part of the plan should probably include some intentional time off for each person involved in the operation. Everyone on the farm works hard during harvest, and the winter season can be a great time to reward employees and others with some time to “recharge” their personal batteries. You – and everyone else – will return to the farm with greater energy, perspective, and passion after some time away.

Get it together

Other than planned time away from the farm, what else might the farm’s off-season plan involve? Here are a few suggestions you may want to include in your plans.

  • Reviewing 2023 – and planning for 2024. Setting aside time for both a review of the past year and starting plans for the next year is one of the best things you and your leadership team can do this winter. Learning from any challenges that happened in 2023 and using that information to get going on 2024 will bring momentum to your plans.

  • Take time for training. Consider using some of the off-season time to get your employees and family members (especially anyone who may be taking more of a leadership role in the future) to involve them in training that’s specific to their role or will be beneficial for the operation in general. You can send them to a winter class or seminar, get them reading specific books, or use other training methods.

  • Consider how to become more efficient. One of the best ways you can use the farm’s off-season is to review the farm’s current processes and procedures and determine how they can be made more efficient. Consider doing your own internal audit of your current processes/procedures – or if your farm doesn’t have those in place yet, get some in place for a couple of the more repetitive or reoccurring tasks that must happen regularly to get things done.

  • Work on forward-looking financial plans. These plans involve more in-depth planning for the business side of your farm and might include things like a five-year capital plan to help direct spending for major purchases such as equipment and buildings, or even an overarching business plans and goals for your operation for the next 10-20 years.

Farmers have found that getting some third-party perspective from our market advisors has helped 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.waterstreetag.com.

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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