7 Good Business Habits for Young Farmers

February 3, 2015 12:00 PM

This is the year to fine-tune your farm. With profits looking harder to make for grain producers, little changes can equal big results.

That’s the message young farmers heard during the 2015 Tomorrow’s Top Producer conference on Jan. 20 in Chicago, Ill.

Now is the time to nitpick your operation and partner with people who can help you survive and thrive. "Soar with your strengths and manage your weaknesses," says Andrew McCrea, host of American Countryside.

Read the stories below to see how you can continue to improve your operation and handle any challenges ahead. Thank you to the 2015 Tomorrow’s Top Producer sponsors: Bayer CropScience, Case IH, Conservis

1. Maximize Your Profits in Lean Years

One way producers can maximize profits in lean years is to divvy up their farms into three categories, explains Chris Barron, an Iowa producer and Top Producer columnist. “How valuable is it to keep the farm you know isn’t producing?” Barron asks. Rather than becoming stuck, a producer with 10 farms might align each location into one of these columns. Read more.


2. Continue Your Education.

As a young producer, Jerry Gulke made it a point to spend 3% of his income on continuing education. On Tuesday in Chicago, the farmer and president of The Gulke Group encouraged young farmers to spend time listening to smart people. Read more.


Develop Strong Relationships.

The key to a productive team is good people. That’s the advice of three producers who spoke on a panel during the 2015 Tomorrow’s Top Producer conference.

Illinois producer Joe Zumwalt recommends being flexible. He is his operation’s only full-time worker, but he works alongside seven part-time team members. “I want the good people, and the good people are busy,” he says. During harvest, flexibility can be difficult to stay rolling. Yet even part-time employees can have buy-in on farm decisions.

Jeremy Weaver, an Indiana producer, advises “make sure you’re taking care of the people who take care of you.” Read more.


Analyze Your Farm Technology Investments.

When evaluating technology payback, consider the amount of overlap or skipping you will eliminate by adding a particular tool to your farm. That’s the recommendation of Ohio producer Brian Watkins. To determine return on investment, break out the operations you perform in a spreadsheet. Read more.


Reduce Conflict Amongst Your Farm Team.

Conflict of any kind, whether it’s a silent simmer, knock-down drag out or aggressive argument, can hinder or hurt your business. While conflict is normal in a family business, it should not go untreated, says Reg Shandro, a farm succession consultant with Farmacist Advisory Services based in Lacombe, Alberta. Read more.


6. Be Your Banker’s Buddy.

There is a lot of cynicism in the borrowing pool about why you should care about being your banker’s best customer. Most farmers ask: What’s in it for me? A lot, says Peter Martin, KCOE/ISOM, who helps farmers secure financial needs.

“If you’re interests are aligned, it’s a win-win for both the banker and farmer,” he says. “Your banker wants you to be profitable. They want to know you are repaying your note along the way. That is the number one thing –are you going to repay that note.” Read more.


7. Understand these Five Important Farm Bill Numbers.

ARC…PLC...SCO... Confused by the new farm bill alphabet soup? The Farm CPA Paul Neiffer shared insights about the 2014 farm bill and crop insurance. Here are key numbers to know from his presentation. Read more. 



Register now for the 2016 Tomorrow's Top Producer business conference happening June 16-17 in Nashville!

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