As a farmer’s wife I can’t tell you how many times I have answered the question “Where’s your husband?” when attending social functions by myself. Depending on the time of year, I typically respond with “in the fields… hauling grain… working cows… baling hay… in the shop…” etc. Farmers are just BUSY — All the time!
Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. I’m beginning a one-year series that will give you an idea of a farmer’s work load. Watch for my monthly article to stay up-to-date with what farmers might be up to at different times of the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.
Start at the beginning!
The agriculture fiscal year-end is December 31st meaning that January is a very busy month for bookkeeping and tax preparation. Farm taxes are due a little earlier than other individuals’: March 1st. Between now and then there will be several meetings with accountants to go through the business’s income and expenses from the prior year. Most farmers do not pay into incomes taxes through the course of the year, because there’s not regular paychecks to deduct taxes from. This means a (big?) payment to Uncle Sam is due by March 1st.
January is a big month for hauling last year’s stored grain to the local elevator. Up until now, the farmer may have been keeping last fall’s harvest in bins at his own farm. This saves him from paying a storage fee to the elevator for holding it there. The elevator constantly puts out corn prices for certain delivery months and at any time the farmer can call up his elevator to lock in a sale price for that month. The thing is, he doesn’t get paid until he delivers it to the elevator. This requires him to unload the grain out of his bins, put it into a semi or grain truck and drive it to the elevator.
Planning ahead for next year’s crop
For a lot of farmers, as soon as last year’s crop has been harvested, it’s time to start considering decisions that need to be made in preparation for next year’s crop. Depending on which fiscal year the farmer wants his expenses to go in, December and January are a prime time for deciding which field will be planted in what seed variety and locking in input costs like seed, fertilizer and chemicals. Many dealers offer discounts and the earlier you lock in their product/price the better the discount.
Ag groups host a lot of meetings in the winter because they know they’ll have better turnouts in the off-season. There will be association meetings, chemical training courses, annual reports from elevators and other co-ops, market outlook discussions and other industry-related get-togethers.
Household and farm odd-jobs / repairs
If anything’s been needing fixin’ now’s the time to finally get to it! Clean and organize the work bench. Sweep out the empty grain bins. Patch a bad spot in the barn. Make sure the generator is in good working condition. Get a load of gravel delivered for the lane. Rearrange the equipment in the shed so you can get the snow blower to hook onto the right tractor.
When you’re ready for a break from farm things, make sure to ask your wife what you can check off of her honey-do list… Then take her out to dinner because she’s been patiently waiting for this little breather as well! The closer planting season gets, the busier the farmer becomes!