The term “dog days of summer” traditionally refers to the hot and sultry days we receive during July and August. The Old Farmer’s Almanac considers the “dog days” to be the 40 days between July 3 and Aug. 11. In ancient Greece, the “dog days” were believed to be a time of drought, bad luck and unrest, when dogs and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat.
For many when they think of the dog days of summer, they think of 90 degree temperatures, ice cream and time cooling off in the pool. But for me, I think of the hot sun, lemonade in a water jug, humidity, sweat and scratched up arms.
Time to think
You see, the summers of my childhood were spent baling over 17,000 bales of hay with my dad and grandfather. Even to this day, my preference when making hay is to be stacking in the mow. I actually enjoy the heat. But more than that, I enjoy the solitude. Especially, the quiet time between loads of hay when I can pause, sweat, and think. In fact, some of my best thoughts and strategic planning has been done while stacking hay.
The Sergay Group Inc., defines strategic thinking as “the process of developing and evaluating every decision and action in light of current and future circumstances, the direction you want to go in and the results you want to achieve. It involves being able to apply possibility thinking to every situation.
“It is not about doing ‘business as usual’ but rather pushing the envelope to see what can be done smarter and what else can be done ‘instead of’, or as an ‘add on’, that would maximize opportunities.”
You may not like to sweat in the hay mow to think, but there are many other ways to create time to think.
My wife, Emily, gets up early every morning before the rest of us are awake to read, reflect and journal. Another friend carves the first 15 to 30 minutes of each day for non-digital thinking and planning. No technology allowed. He just pulls out a plain old piece of paper and pen and works through the issues required to make his business more successful.
So how are you taking time? Maybe it is a walk around the hay field or through the pasture. Maybe it is tractor time or fishing. Maybe it is by resting under the old willow tree in the backyard. Some may have to get completely away from all the distractions on the farm and retreat to a cabin in the woods.
Regardless of how or where you think about your business, make sure to carve out time to think strategically. I think it is safe to say that 2020 has provided us with lots of things to think about. Economics are tight in agriculture, especially in the dairy industry. By now, most of our 2020 budgets and market assumptions have been thrown out the window.
One item which our OSU extension farm office team encourages you to think about is the potential of cash flow issues as we progress into fall. All indicators are suggesting that cash is going to be extremely tight for farms this fall. Our advice is to take a deep dive into your financial numbers now.
Revisit your initial budgets and compare them against your year-to-date numbers. The time to make adjustments to spending is now, not in December. Are there purchases that can be delayed? Will you need to dip into cash reserves or seek a credit reserve? How has your cost of production for each enterprise changed because of COVID-19? Are there marketing windows or contracts that need explored?
Will you have to hold off on equipment purchases? Should you explore re-financing to take advantage of lower interest rates? Should you increase custom work this fall to bring in additional cash? Should nonfarm expenses be lowered? Are there land leases that need to be renegotiated or canceled for 2021? Should some of the less productive assets be sold to raise cash?
Our farm business analysis team is able to help you complete a comprehensive review of your farm finances. These are worth their weight in gold. Check out farmprofitability.osu.edu for more information on how they can assist you.
Good luck as you find your “hay mow” to do some thinking before the fall harvest rush arrives. In closing, as I think of the dog days of summer, I am reminded of a quote from Jean Paul Malfatti which states, “A friend is a friend and a dog is a dog. A friend will never be a dog, but a dog won’t ever quit being a friend.” Have a good and safe day.
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