With grain prices sinking and margins tightening now is the time to hone in on business tips and solid advice from successful producers.
Three such farmers shared personal stories and advice from their farming careers today during a panel discussion at Top Producer’s Executive Women in Agriculture conference. Here are three tips any farmer should hear.
Network outside of the ag industry.
Daphne Holterman farms near Watertown, Wis., with her husband and two young unrelated partners. They have 900 dairy cows and farm 1,500 acres of alfalfa and corn silage.
She says while she loves people in the ag industry and attends many farm meetings she makes a point to meet successful people in industries beyond agriculture. "Sometimes I learn more from talking to my plumber and learning about his small business," she says.
Make marketing a priority and learn from others.
April Hemmes, of Rafter H. Farms, farms in Hampton, Iowa and was Monsanto America’s Farmers 2011 Farm Mom of the Year. She is the farmer in her family, not her husband.
As she got more involved in her operation, she knew her time was best spent focusing on marketing. "I had to teach my dad and grandpa that an hour spent going to a marketing meeting was more important than an hour in the tractor," she says.
Hemmes is a member of an all-women marketing club that meets once a month, from November through March. "We talk options, grain contracts and learn the different ways you can sell a crop," she says. "Learning what other people are doing is key."
Understand you can’t do it all.
With her husband, Michelle Stewart runs a manure spreading business and farms near Sheridan, Ill. They are both first generation farmers. "My husband had a small manure spreading operation and was farming 100 acres when I met him and I had a business degree," she says. "We combined our skills and have grown our operation. We are now farming 15,000 acres in Illinois and some in Mississippi."
In addition to their businesses, the couple has three young daughters. So, achieving that coveted work-life balance is difficult. Stewart’s advice is to recognize that some tensions will always be there.
"You need to take time for yourself and explain to your kids why you need to do it," she says. "Don’t make yourself feel guilty. Just like farming, there are seasons to play and seasons to work."