Harvest is over, the equipment is put away, and winter begins. So, what the heck do crop farmers do with all their time over the next few months before spring?
Unlike our animal farmer counterparts, we don’t have to take care of our crops year round. In fact, we don’t even have any crops right now since we’re all done with harvest. That might lead some people to think that farmers don’t do anything in the winter except hunker down in comfy clothes in front of the television. But that’s not exactly the case.
So, what do crop farmers do during the winter months?
Hauling Corn and Soybeans
Just because harvest is done, doesn’t mean that the results of harvest is done. We do store some of our corn and soybean crop in grain bins. Usually that portion of the crop will be hauled into the granary sometime before spring. Learn more about what happens at the granary here.
Clean and Fix Equipment
After a busy harvest season, parts start to wear down and our machines need some maintenance. We also may make improvements to some pieces, such as putting a new belts and chains on the combine. Its important to keep our machines running properly and in good shape so we can get as much use out of them as possible, and avoid problems (to the extent that’s possible) during our busiest times of the year.
Shop New Equipment
Admittedly, this doesn’t happen every year; only years where we made a decent profit. But, equipment does need to be replaced and upgrades need to be made on occasion. This is the perfect time of year to get that done, especially because we have a little more time to travel and look at equipment.
Like many businesses at this time of the year, we’re working to get all of our paperwork for the past year together. Mom can usually be found at the dining room table with receipts, bills, and all manner of paperwork spread out. When she gets her part done, it’ll be delivered to our accountant. She’s also busy sending necessary papers to the landowners that we rent land from for their taxes.
Review New Research and Implement New Ideas
We’re always looking to do better on the farm. Winter gives us an excellent time of year to catch up on new research, new ideas, and new production techniques. As we’re planning for next year, this gives us an opportunity to figure out what we can do differently and some new ideas to try.
Meet with Seed and Input Dealers
This time of year is rife with meetings with seed dealers, input dealers, commodity partners, and the like. We’re making decisions about what we’re going to plant, what we’re going to spray, and any new ideas we’re going to implement. Of course, we’re also looking at our options and negotiating for the best prices. To learn more about how we make these decisions, check out my article about choosing seed here.
Attend Farm Shows
There are usually a few big farm shows in our area. What is a farm show? It’s basically a fair, of sorts, where various agriculture dealers, suppliers, and companies set up shop in one place. It gives farmers an opportunity to learn about new products and specials all in the same place.
Cleaning Up Fields and Tree Lines
When the weather permits, meaning there isn’t a ton of snow, we try to get into the fields to clean up debris. We also like to clear our tree lines so there aren’t things like tree branches sticking out into the field that can get caught in our equipment. If the weather is really nice, we will actual work fields!
Paying Landowners and Signing Lease Agreements
The reality is that we rent the majority of our farmland from neighbors. This time of the year we spend time visiting with those landlords, paying the rent, and getting new lease agreements signed for the coming year. Because we tend to think of these people are personal friends, this can take quite a bit of time as we are catching up and socializing!
Relax and Vacation
Yes, we also get some relaxation and vacation time during the winter! This time of year is our downtime, so we make sure to take some advantage of that. You won’t find us taking a vacation in the middle of planting or harvest, so this is the best time we have to do that.
For another perspective, check out Jay’s article at Ask the Farmers.