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Monday, January 02, 2006

A 2006 “To Do” List for the Shop Door


It is New Year’s Resolution time on Rural Route 4, or wherever your farm is. Many of those “character builders” are being made and most will be broken by the end of the week, according to those who keep track of such social goals. It is tough to make and keep our own resolutions for a better life, but it is easy to make resolutions for other folks, so I’ll offer some suggestions to those who produce the food of which we are resolving to eat less. Here is a checklist of Farmer Resolutions that spouses can post on the refrigerator or the shop door.
1) Pay attention to your family. They come before your farm operation. Farm wives are your best friend, confidant, and business partner. Don’t let her slip out of the loop on any decision, except when you call to have flowers delivered for no specific reason. She needs to know everything: your plans for the day, your need for the checkbook, and when you will see her next. She already knows your goals and objectives for the operation, since she was part of the team that developed them. And if any modification needs to be made in those, ensure that she is part of that process.
2) Speaking of goals and objectives, this is a good time to either create or update them. You have a good handle on your financial position, and your goals and objectives should correlate with that. Is your goal to retire early, to expand your acreage, to diversify into a new operation, or to raise your business to the next higher level and begin exporting your own brand of corn, beans, wheat, or high quality meat? Once you have set your goal, your objectives indicate how fast you’ll get there. It may take months or the entire year to develop and refine family goals and objectives, but it only takes a moment to resolve to begin that process this year.
3) Watch the quantity and type of food you consume. We can all afford to push back from the table a little earlier than we do. Instead of buying a bigger belt, make sure you can fit into a smaller belt. The food you eat is a significant factor to your health, and if you don’t want your family to suffer from your ill health, resolve to change your culinary lifestyle. And come to think about it, a resolution to lose one pound per month will make you 7-10% lighter a year from now. That is at least one belt size.
4) If you want to be farming a year from now, you will do yourself a favor by resolving to improve your marketing skills. You may have 2005 grain still unpriced. You have the 2006 crop to sell, and some folks will be laying plans for 2007. Sure, there are uncertainties, but how many years have you not harvested some portion of a crop? Crop insurance will help guarantee your financial commitments and that can be built into a marketing plan. Some marketing plans are implemented by the seat of the pants, and those are the ones that you probably don’t want serving as your financial foundation. So, initially, develop a written marketing plan, which addresses such issues as futures and basis, interest rates being paid and earned, storage costs, grain quality, and similar issues that few farmers really include. The marketing plan should be written and signed, which becomes a contract with one’s self to get the job done. Secondly, join a marketing club. And if you can’t find one, start one. There is not an Extension agent, elevator manager, or farm manager who would not help you do that. Marketing clubs are not fueled with rumor and emotion. They will utilize solid market information, generate conversation about marketing tools that might be used in various situations, and allow you to hear from other farmers about development of marketing alternatives that have worked well. Thirdly, attend a seminar on either basic or advanced marketing, and don’t let your ego get in the way of education. Too many farmers do not want to be seen going into a seminar where they may learn something, and then have their neighbors find out. By attending a marketing seminar, you might end up providing tips to someone else, and that is going to feed your ego. Don’t tell yourself you already know 90% of what is going to be taught. That may well be true. But the 10% of the seminar that might be new to you could mean the difference between just breaking even, and making a profit.
5) If you have rejected all of the preceding ideas, at least resolve to practice the highest level of farm safety. Canisters of fresh water will reduce the potential for burns to your eyes and nose during anhydrous season. Goggles, rubber gloves, and repellant clothing will reduce the potential for you to develop some weird patches on your skin after spraying season. Maintain all safety shields and guards on equipment. Turn equipment off before working on it. Put locks and braces under hydraulic lifts before you crawl underneath to look for problems. Continue your safety campaign with the use of reflectors, reflective tape, and slow moving vehicle signs on all of my equipment that will be on roadways. Respect for electricity, volatile fuels, toxic chemicals, and equipment that dismembers or kills needs to be high on your farm safety resolutions. You are aware of your fellow farmers who lost their lives in the past year because of accidents, and you don’t want your family to have to unexpectedly plan your funeral this year. You are needed as a role model, not as the bad example.

You can make these resolutions any time of the year, but take advantage of a new calendar to write them down, record your progress, and make a positive change in your life by the end of 2006. Since you cannot possibly do all of these this week, pledge to work on them throughout the entire year

Posted by Stu Ellis on 01/02 at 11:10 AM | Permalink


Enjoyed reading your comments. Just found your website in the San Angelo paper . Thought you might be able to help me out with something. My husband and I saw on television a few weeks back information on a post hole digger that doesnt work from a tractor, rather it is hydraulic. I realize I may have not described it very well, but are you familiar with this concept? Please answer at your convenience. Happy Farming, Rhonda Wyatt Richland Springs, Texas Rhonda: Thanks for the kind words. Not wanting to get into the business of being a clearinghouse for farm machinery and equipment, let me suggest that you visit some of the farm magazine websites. Many of the magazines have machinery editors who are better equipped to provide resource information from their advertisers. ....Stu

Posted by: Rhonda Wyatt at January 8, 2006 7:07PM

When Ill Farm Bureau stopped giving the grain market on a ten minute delay via setting up my own page on their website I did some searching. Topflight Grain has a page on their website that has corn, beans, wheat, DJIA, and electronic corn and beans. This site is a 10 minute delay and updates automaticly. Suppose there are other elevators doing the same.

Posted by: Joe Bicknell at January 9, 2006 10:10PM

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