There are many ways to save time, stress and money on the farm, but it can be overwhelming to find a starting point. Here are eight small steps to get the ball rolling.
For many people, January brings the chance for a fresh start. Whether that means beginning a new project from scratch or revamping what you’ve already got, it doesn’t hurt to set goals that will keep you focused. And if you’re like most farmers, saving a few dollars is a goal that never goes away. So to get your year off to a great start, here’s a list of ways to save money, stress and time in 2008:
Resolve to set aside four hours at the beginning of every month to enter financial data into your computer, recommends Eric Barrett, an Extension educator from Washington County, Ohio.
Keeping a running tab will help you better manage cash flow – and maybe keep you from using that line of credit as much. Set aside time in January to plan cash flow for 2008.
The least favorite job on a farm, in most cases, is record keeping. Yet this is where you learn the most about your business, adds Dan Frobose from the Agricultural Business Enhancement Center in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Ask yourself, ‘Am I a manager or a laborer?” Many times you are both, but make sure you devote time every week to management.
Get all of the seasonal work done early so you are prepared to react when Mother Nature throws a curve ball, says Dan Simmons Jr. of Peace Valley Orchards.
Work ahead when you can. USDA conservationist Patty Dyer suggests getting a soil test early, using it to order the right amount of fertilizer and lime – and then applying the nutrients in a timely manner.
Eric Barrett also recommends ordering seed and inputs as soon as possible. Whether it’s grain crop or vegetable seed, getting that order placed now will keep you on task in the spring. And you’ll get the varieties you want.
Vow to do the important tasks or management on the farm first, not just what you like to do, Dan Frobose says.
Time is money. Focus on the areas of management that give you the best opportunities for additional returns.
Public perception can make or break you, says John Garwood, a Columbiana County farmer.
Take a stance on the crucial values of agricultural stewardship, from crop production, grazing practices, water quality, land use and planning, and all aspects of getting farm commodities to the consumer’s dinner plate.
Educate the public on agricultural practices and how farming has evolved with modern technology.
Talk to your neighbors. Be available to answer questions and address concerns, suggests Jennifer Keller of the Ohio Pork Producers Council.
Resolve to get active in the political process, too, says Joe Cornely, senior director of corporate communications for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
Legislation and regulation can keep farmers viable or put them out of business. Getting to know the candidates and supporting those with positions favorable to agriculture will be a worthwhile investment.
With fuel prices eating into farm income, all farmers should make better errand lists, Eric Barrett recommends.
Get a clipboard for everyone to note their wants and needs – anything from farm supplies to household items. Then, pick a date to go to town and get it all in one trip.
Of course, there will be exceptions, but every gallon of fuel saved can be used for something like vacation or a night out.
Realize you don’t do everything well, and delegate responsibility to others.
Many times you will come out ahead if you seek help from experts, farm employees or family members, Dan Frobose says.
If you want other people to be excited about your business, let them become more actively involved.
Make family time
We’re too caught up in getting chores done and fires put out that we forget what’s most important, Eric Barrett says.
Set up date night with your spouse or game night with the kids. Getting into a routine with them is as easy as getting into a routine with chores.
Market with the pencil and not with the mind. Don’t let emotion determine when you market, but let the numbers determine when you can lock in a profit and cover all costs and payments, says Ag Credit‘s Tom Moser.
Don’t forget, marketing also includes risk management and crop insurance, reminds Gene Gantz, a USDA Risk Management Specialist.
You’ll need the protection so that a disaster will not wreck your farm business, whether you’re producing crop for sale or for on-farm use.
Get a good groundhog dog, says Roger Thomas, a farmer from Carrollton, Ohio.
“Those furry little ——– are the bane of my farm existence. Not high fertilizer prices, low yields, drought, bugs, government or wet hay, but tractor-swallowing, teeth-shattering groundhog holes!”