Filed under: Ag education, Fall, Farm, history | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, harvest, history, markets, selling
So the crop is in the bin and life is good, or is it? Now may be the most important time in a farmer’s life, getting his crop sold at a price that will pay the bills. So on the 24th day of our 30 day challenge let’s talk about making the sale.
If life were simple a farmer would take his crop to market and always get a price that would pay the bills. But life is not simple. Buyers always want to buy cheap and sellers always want to sell high. Times of high demand rarely mesh with times of high supply, and harvest time is notoriously the lowest price for farm products. Everyone knows the crop is there and must come to market, setting the price can be really hard.
In an average world prices go in predictable cycles. The lowest prices would be found nearest harvest and the highest prices would be found at the point furthest away from harvest. You would develop a marketing roller coaster that looks like this.The problem is that even though farmers know of this cycle, they end up selling most of their crop on the lower end of that roller coaster. Sellers want just a bit more, so they wait for the very top of the cycle. Then as the prices start to go down they hold on in panic, sure that prices will get better. Many end up selling in despair of ever seeing the hoped for top again.
Periods of lower crop supply or excess crop supply will change how this roller coaster runs. Highs can get higher and lows can get lower, or the whole thing can flatten out and there will be little difference from high to low. Sometimes the high can come just before or after harvest and really mess up your plans. Selling your crops for a price that will pay the bills can be difficult to impossible some years and no problem at all others.
Farm folks spend many hours in the off season studying markets and reading market opinions. If they are lucky they will sell most of their crop on their way to the top. Unfortunately that is rarely the case. Still, it is a game we have to play if we want to stay in farming.
So next time you start to think that farming is easy, ask a farmer to explain to you how markets work and what he does to market his produce. I’m sure it will leave your head spinning.
Filed under: Fall, Farm, harvest, history | Tags: 30 day challenge, bookkeeping, computers, farm, harvest, IRS, machines
While I’ve been in the field there has not been much time for bookwork. Now that the year is drawing to a close it is time to hit the books. Bankers and the IRS need to know how we are doing. Accurate bookkeeping will help to keep the wolf away from the door.
I remember the days when my dad used to sit at the kitchen table and add up the income and expenses from the last year as tax time approached. Piles of paper and a long adding machine tape later he would send in his check to the IRS. Today it is different, hard work and an adding machine will not keep the IRS or your banker happy. They need inventories, expense reports and income reports. You need to know your accounts payable and accounts receivable. In short, your accounting must look like it came from a business, not a way of life.
Back in the 1980′s I bought my first computer. It wasn’t much, but it helped me stay ahead of the banker. Those were some hard years and you needed to know where you were financially before the banker shut you down.Today my computer is a bit newer but the need is still the same, stay on top of our financials. We’ve had a few good years and knowing your financial condition is even more important now than it was 30 years ago.
Even small farmers can have hundreds of thousands of dollars of bills and income, many farm groups deal in the millions of dollars. Farmers handle massive amounts of grain and livestock with the hope that just a few pennies from each animal or bushel will stay at home. Less than ten cents of the money you pay for that box of cereal or loaf of bread makes it back to the farm. We have to make the most of every penny we can hold on to.
So on this the 23rd day of the 30 day challenge, you can find me hitting the books with piles of paper around me. Some things do not change.
Filed under: Ag education, Farm, Farm Bureau, harvest, Politicians, Politics | Tags: 30 day challenge, Agriculture education, Beef Producers, farm, Farm Bureau, harvest, minnesota farm bureau, politics, Pork Producers, Soybean Growers
Day 22 of the 30 day challenge on what farmers do after the harvest found me helping to set policy for the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
Farmers realize that they are a minority in this country. When you are only 2% of the population you have to keep on your toes or someone else may be telling your story that does not have your best interest in mind.
Organizations such as the Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, Corn Growers, Soybean Growers, Beef Producers, Pork Producers and others give us a voice that is much larger since we have banded together. Politicians come to us for the information they need to make policy, and since we have little money to pay lobbyists we need to specialize in information rather than persuasion.
Setting policy together is not an easy task. Farmers are notoriously independent. They have to be. What works on one farm or in one region, may not work on another. They adjust and do what is best for them. Policy for dairy may not always be best for beef or corn. Meetings of farmers help them all to understand the political problems they face and what they can do together.Once the policy is set, it is time to make a trip to the halls of power. Telling our story face to face in our state capital or Washington, D.C. Helps our representatives by giving them stories to tell and faces to put on those stories. If you are not helping to do the cooking, tomorrow you may be on the plate.
Filed under: Fall, Farm, garden, harvest, house, pond, projects, snow, water garden, weather | Tags: 30 day challenge, 30 days, cold, farm, garden, harvest, nature, pond, snow
It’s day 21 of the 30 day challenge and I have some yard work to do.
Farm yards, just like city yards need work, but our yards are bigger. When the harvest is done, there are things to do to get that yard ready for winter. Leaves are blowing around and the grass needs to be cut again, tree branches have fallen, and the yard just needs a tidying up. Many farmers wives have jobs off the farm and weekends are busy too, so the farmer must now tend to his yard work. I’ve been up on the roof cleaning gutters and doing other small maintenance on the house.
We also have an artificial pond near our house so blowing leaves need to be removed from that before they settle in. The pumps must be pulled up and the heaters put in to keep our fish happy when the ice forms. Every little thing you do to make your house and yard better means you have more to care for before winter sets in.
Today the temperatures are falling and snow is in the forecast. Looks like I may be on the last possible day of yard work. Better get going.
Filed under: Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, planting, Trees | Tags: Emerald Ash Borer, farm, harvest, Minnesota, nature, Planting, trees
It seems that I always have trees that are dying around here, and their space must be filled. Our yard lost a birch tree last winter and I did not get the space filled until just now. The tree is a flowering pear. It’s leaves are a dark red green and while it has great flowers in the spring, it produces little or no fruit, just right for our yard.
I have been trying to keep many different tree varieties in our yard. When I moved here the place was elms and ash with a few maples. Dutch elm ended the life of our elm trees so most of the trees replaced were green ash. Now with the Emerald Ash Borer moving into Minnesota I am planting other trees whenever I can. We have a wide variety so I should never be without trees to slow the prairie winds. Fall is an excellent time to plant trees. I hope you are planting your share.
So there you have it, day 20 of the 30 day challenge. I already know what eight of the remaining subjects are going to be, I should be able to finish this challenge off. Hope you are enjoying finding out what farmers do after the harvest is over.
Filed under: Fall, family, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, school | Tags: 30 day challenge, college, family, farm, harvest, Minnesota
On day 19, our 30 day challenge of what farmers do after the harvest takes us back to the old school today, back to college.
Surprise, many farmers are college graduates, and once in a while they get back to support their old college. Now the picture above is not from my college, but from my wife’s college where we gathered for a library fundraiser.Both of our families have members who are graduates of GAC in St. Peter, MN. Me? I’m a Golden Gopher from the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.
Now not all farmers take the opportunity to go to college, but I did, and you will find many others like me out on the farms and ranches of our country. Agriculture is big business after all, and a better understanding of what you are doing is important even on the farm.
So next time you are looking for a farmer after harvest is done, don’t be surprised to find him on a college campus. He may be there visiting family, taking part in a fundraiser or enjoying a game, no matter what, he is there to support the old school.
Filed under: family, Farm, harvest | Tags: 30 day challenge, Agriculture education, family, farm, farmers, harvest
The man of the soil is an interesting, complex individual. You expect to find farmers working fields and tending to livestock, but in the boardroom? Yes, it is not unusual to find farmers in the boardroom of some very large companies.
I grew up with my dad taking trips to meetings all over the country. When I was young he was on the board of our local cooperative elevator. For many years he was chairman of that board helping to manage and direct a multi-million dollar company. Later he spent time on the board of Land-O-Lakes, a national, multi-billion dollar farm cooperative. Today, at 83, he is chairman of the board of our local POET ethanol plant and also serves on the management committee of the POET group of ethanol plants.
I have friends who are on the boards of directors of local and national banking groups, they serve on hospital boards and school boards, electric companies and manufacturing companies, they advise government offices and politicians, farmers can be found everywhere. They may not have a college education, but they have the savy learned from years managing their own farm business. They are willing to learn new things and appreciate a job well done. If the job is in an area of interest, so much the better. Without them, many rural companies could not exist.
and in Washington D.C. the next. Do not be surprised, farmers know how to get things done.
This has been day 18 of the 30 day challenge. Hope you have enjoyed the trip so far, I still have lots of places to be.