Off-season on the farm is an important window for producers to prepare for the next growing season, but competing demands for time and resources can make it difficult to determine what tasks to put at the top of the to-do list.
“As margins have tightened, producers have had to face additional financial pressures. Today, more action has to get done in less time,” says Scott Welden, AgDirect territory manager in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. “Some producers who used to attend farm meetings during the winter months are now working off-farm jobs to make ends meet.”
Regardless of operation type and size, producers can make the most of their off-season schedule by focusing on the following four areas: budgeting and planning, equipment storage and maintenance, keeping up with technology and continuing education.
Budgeting and planning
Although financial management is an ongoing activity in every operation, the off-season provides producers an opportunity to rethink saving and spending decisions.
“There is a big difference between setting a budget versus formulating a spending plan,” says Welden. “For example, if a producer chooses to upgrade their combine, then there may be debt involved that wasn’t in the budget. It’s important to know what capital you have and how much you have to work with.”
“Knowing your capacity can help drive conversations when meeting with your accountant or financial adviser,” he adds. “Year-end is a good time for producers to visit with their equipment dealer to find out if there is any inventory they are trying to move and what program financing is available.”
Equipment storage and maintenance
A second area producers should consider focusing on in the off-season is proper storage and maintenance of farm equipment.
“Before putting your equipment away for the year, it’s a good idea to assess the utilization of your building space,” says Welden. “Ask yourself if you are maximizing your available machinery storage and consider other ways to keep your equipment out of the elements by decluttering, reorganizing or renting additional space from friends or neighbors.”
Additionally, Welden encourages producers to take advantage of out-of-season maintenance programs, analyze asset use and keep lines of communication open with local equipment dealers.
“Equipment dealers run a lot of service and inspection specials during the off-season,” he says. “This is a great opportunity for producers to have their machinery serviced by trained technicians at a minimal cost which can help lower maintenance and repair downtime during peak season.”
“And, by being transparent about what’s in your equipment line-up and building a relationship with your local dealer, you can determine whether or not the dealer might be interested in a trade or has an appetite for your inventory.”
Keeping up with technology
Off-season may also be a good time to consider adopting new technology on the farm, but there are costs and risks associated with keeping up with the latest tech – return and utilization of technology can differ from one farm to the next.
“The value of technology varies by the scope of each individual operation and by its uses,” says Welden. “The key to keeping up with technology is having a desire to learn.”
When it comes to continuing education, there seems to be no shortage of winter meetings, conferences and workshops for producers to attend.
“Whether it’s a farm show, an expo or a grower meeting, the ag industry can own every bit of a producers time from post-harvest to pre-planting,” says Welden. “The challenge is choosing wisely with your time.”
“Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone,” he advises. “Sign up for a welding class at the local community college, join a group outside of the ag network, see if the dealership is putting on a clinic or an operating system review. Whatever you do, never stop learning.”
As you work with your equipment dealer this winter season, ask about AgDirect purchase, lease and refinancing options. To learn more about AgDirect or locate your nearest AgDirect territory manager, contact the AgDirect financing team at 888-525-9805 or visit agdirect.com