Proactive Farming vs. Reactive Farming
We are farming in uncertain times. Price fluctuations, lead times on materials, and a steady rise of inflation makes running and managing a farm more difficult. We need to be serious about carving out time and capital to develop our farm into a well-oiled machine. This doesn’t happen by itself.
Obviously, farmers make constant real-time decisions and calculations based on weather, market conditions, capital, and more. However, a common mistake I see on many farms is reactive planning. Crop plans and input costs are typically created during the downtime of winter months when the information is no longer fresh on our minds. Then we order right before we need the products. Recently this has caused major problems for reactive farmers as shipping delays and other factors impact their farming practices. What if we made a shift in our approach to proactive planning and ordering rather than reactive? Crop planning, input calculation, and ordering months in advance would give us greater control over our plant days and peace of mind. What could this do for your farm?
Shifting Our Approach to Farm planning
September- Crop planning
Typically most market gardeners work on the annual master crop plan sometime around December to January. Crop planning at this time of year seems logical, we have more downtime during this season and the weather is typically cold and nasty and so office work with a cup of coffee sounds great. However, what might happen if we shift our timing of the annual crop planning while the current summer’s successes and failures are fresh on our minds? Could this altered planning schedule be something to work towards?
During this process make notes of challenges that you faced over the past summer. Pests, drought, relational struggles, equipment failures, and desired farm upgrades would be good to put on this list.
October and November are going to have an increased workload with winter prep, flipping summer beds, planting garlic, winterizing equipment, etc. On the Flip-side, (see what I did there) weed pressure and rapid growth rates are significantly reduced. Imagine if the bulk of planning for the following year is finished or close to complete. This time of year is the best time to purchase supplies. Oftentimes you can pick up a lot of stuff for great prices. These months are great months to pick up great deals on used equipment as farmers sell off their equipment for various reasons. Additionally, many companies are shifting inventory and offering sales on everything from irrigation supplies to fertilizer inputs. This is the best time to actually place orders for the following season.
Shifted Approach to Planning Checklist
October – November = Ordering
- Seed (for the year or half the year for Microgreens seed) If budget allows.
- Fertilizers -(given that you have adequate storage) Compost, manures, and other soil mediums will keep if covered well, and depending on the quality they may benefit from
- Proactive Insect control Pesticides (review shelf life and storage components)
- Irrigation supplies and upgrades
- Oil, grease, hydraulic fluid, and other mechanical necessities
- The first few month’s supply of packaging materials
- Updates labels
- Any other growing supplies
December = Maintenance and organization
Holidays and the intentional downtime in December are very important things for a farmer. However, this month is a great time to get caught up with all the deferred maintenance from the past year. Turning the corning into the new year with freshly maintained equipment and a clean and organized shop will make all the difference that
Perform all needed maintenance on every machine that you have.
- Oil and filters
- Drain fuel tanks
- Check all reservoirs and fluids
- Fix any leaky hydraulic hoses and fittings
- Grease every grease point. Replace zerks as needed.
- If needed add lights, traps, cats, or poisons, to protect all wiring from rodents seeking shelter from the cold.
- Sharpen Blades, inspect belts, etc.
January = rechecking and pivoting accordingly
- Double-check your crop plan and dates.
- Check your inventory.
- Order any other inputs that you expect that you will need leading up to late summer.
- Meet with your tax consultant and prep all tax materials
- Double check December work
- Knock out a few of those Larger projects and upgrades
- Deep clean and organize all workspaces.
Analyze your current market conditions and pivot accordingly.