Two weeks of CraZy!

What a whirlwind two weeks! Seems like my head is spinning and I’m still behind on my list of tasks to complete. Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve been up to!

Sunset in Winter

After my last post we jumped into the week with our annual safety meeting all about what to do in an emergency, where to meet, who to call and a whole host of other great things to remember around our operation. Our crew is our family and we never want a hangnail much less anything more serious to occur. I know it seems boring and tedious but during an emergency it’s hard to remember what to do as your adrenaline starts racing. I pray we never need these skills but I hope by reviewing them something will become second nature.

We have conducted our annual employee performance reviews. I can say with great confidence we have the best row crop crew in the business. They all work hard for the team and have vast knowledge of how to seed, weed, feed and harvest the crops we grow. When new technologies or techniques come around they are early adopters. It’s fun to work with great people. In fact between the different personalities they each keep us entertained too! I think we could have an entertaining reality farm TV show!!

Thanks to my peer group for guidance and feedback about these winter tasks.  We met in early January.  It is an awesome group of women to have my back!

Listening and Learning!

I worked hard to complete our year-end accrual balance sheets and get all the proper information to our Ag lender by the second week in January. This is a major job in my opinion. I have all sorts of check and double checks when it comes to preparing this information. I believe it’s important to always have the same year-end date to be able to compare “apples to apples” so to speak. This way the financial ratios help to tell the story of the strength or weakness of our operation. You can see trends and work to improve areas you need to improve.

It can be overwhelming to borrow the amount of funds needed to operate a row crop farm from year to year. It certainly takes some time to grow accustomed to the number of zeros involved. After 25 years I suppose I am numb to the amounts that once caused slight paralysis for my brain! But that total is always there in the back of my mind with each problematic weather event, drop in market prices or tariffs employed by our government.

Working on Financial Statements

Farmer educational meetings are all the rage during January and February. I had the privilege of moderating a session at the Soil and Water Educational Conference at Arkansas State University. Very interesting information and I always love when farmers talk about their experiences. It just makes it feel real to hear from them.

The highlight of the last two weeks were two collegiate visits for our son! He has decided to study agriculture but still is unsure of which college he would like to attend. I will say that the two colleges really put on a great recruiting effort. It has been fun to watch him think through his options and make a decision.

Dylan loves the farm!

It would be my nature to just push him in the direction I would want him to go. As a Mom it’s been tough to sit back and let him take the lead. But I am glad Greg and I have done just that. This is a decision that will affect the rest of his life and we have tried to offer all the tools and information for him to choose.  He is close to making a choice and I feel like I know the way he will go.  If I am correct, I think he is making the best choice for him and that makes my heart smile.  My college years were some of the best times of my life and I enjoyed every minute.  That’s all I want for him too!

Now I did have some serious fun during the last weekend of January!!  I am a huge Eric Church fan and he started his Double Down tour in January.  My Eric Church road trip friend and I traveled to St. Louis to see him on night 2 in that city.  We also have tickets to two more shows on this tour!!  His tour consists of two nights in each city, hence the name Double Down.  He has no opening acts and his concert is simply 4 hours of him singing.  He also has an extraordinary singer that is on his albums with him named Joanna Cotten.  She was born in Memphis but grew up in Forrest City so she is an Arkansan!  She has a voice that won’t quit and pairs well with Eric.  He writes all his own songs and even talks about hard subjects that resonate with good ole down to Earth hard-working folks like me.  One of my favorites on his new album is titled Drowning Man.

“We put the smoke in the stack; Put the seed in the ground; While Lady Liberty turns her back; and Uncle Sam just turns around.”

This verse hit home for me and many other farmers.  The 2018 crop season was a tough one.  Harvest was the most difficult I have ever experienced.  We began the year with over $10.00 per bushel soybeans and fell below $8.00 due to the trade war with China.  It really felt like Uncle Sam just turned around…

Is January a crazy time for your business or farming operation?  I would love to know what challenges you face this time of year.  I am looking up to have an exceptional 2019 crop year!  Who is with me?

Winter on a Rice Farm

My Winter Days – Part 2

It has been a whirlwind of a week in the farm office and we accomplished so much. January on the farm equals a very busy time. Now you might think that is an inaccurate statement because we have no crops growing in the field. Many people ask me if I even go to work in the winter. I answer with a big smile and say yes. Winter is when all of the planning for the next crop is done.

Planning for a new crop is similar to making new year resolutions – lots of review of the old crop to see what worked and what did not and then setting goals and dreams for the new crop. Long days sitting together with my Dad and husband reviewing and discussing. We keep extremely detailed crop budgets. Each winter we make adjustments to those budgets based on the current conditions. We always learn things from taking a deep dive into our numbers. It gives us ideas and insight into what we might do to save money or do a better job of each crop.

UA Budgets are a great place to learn

The University of Arkansas provides detailed crop budgets for many different crops and growing systems. These can be a good place to start if you need a guideline for your own budgets. Every farm operation is so very different. Between crop mix, soil types, number of employees and the list goes on and on -no two operations will have the exact same budget. I don’t believe there is a perfect way to plan it all out even so far ahead of planting. The weather is a factor that we depend on above all else. The perfectly laid plans can be interrupted and completely destroyed in a matter of days or even hours of heavy rain or low temperatures for example. We have to be ready to change plans and adjust budgets at any time especially during planting season. But I do believe that the best plans can only be made from the history in your own records and operation. The advantage a farmer has is that you know your operation better than anyone else.

Accrual balance sheets also help tremendously in reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of our operation from year to year. Many times my gut feeling about the answers I will find in the preparation of the balance sheets are confirmed. However there are times when they reveal clear pictures of management decisions that must be made. This is probably true of any business and not just farming. If you run a business this is a great way to learn more. I prepare all of this internally but good accountants are always there to give you guidance. I think it is best to find an accountant that is willing to teach as well as do the work. If you don’t understand the numbers you cannot highlight your business’s strengths and improve the weaknesses.

Working the numbers

I love numbers and these tasks are some of my favorite to do- well until the field work begins. Isn’t that why every farmer farms? The love of the outdoors. The smell of freshly turned soil. The ability to watch God’s hand in the renewal of food for the world. The warm sunshine on your back as you count the seeds in the row checking planting rates. The 2018 harvest season was a difficult one for row crop farmers across our country. Rains prolonged harvest for weeks and months. The rain is continuing into January which is keeping the tractors from rolling to prepare soil for 2019. Everyone is a little nervous about how this next year will go. Prices are low, the trade war with China continues and the field preparations are far behind schedule, but we have hope. The cycle will continue -that is one thing we know for certain.

Let’s chat: What are your winter farm activities? Do you love them or hate them? What did you learn from 2018 crop year that will change your operation for the better in 2019?

Winter on a Rice Farm

My Winter Days – Part 1

It’s winter and there aren’t any crops in the field. What does a row crop farmer do all winter? Go hunting? Stay home with family? Travel to warmer destinations? Well all those sound great –but unfortunately there is a huge amount of work to do in the winter months to prepare for spring!

We did take some time off during the Christmas and New Year holidays to enjoy family and rest, relax and restore. Personally I spend time reflecting on the past year and reading and writing hopes and dreams for the new year during this time off. Who doesn’t love a new planner to organize as well?? But as of January 2 it is full time on the job. I guess you could say its just a 40 hour week this time of year! I try to arrive at the office around 7:30 – 8:00 a.m. and make myself leave by no later than 5:00p.m. I do work quite a bit on Saturdays so that ruins my 40 hour week! The office is just much less hectic and I am able to get so much more done. On week days, arriving a little later allows me some time at home in the mornings to just “do my thing” and then extra time at night to READ! Reading is something I love to do and I have a goal to read 24 books in 2019!

Sunrise over harvested rice

Winter does feel a little lazy and I LOVE standard time. I think we should do away with daylight savings time and just go with the sun!! Of course I suppose that’s what farmers do anyway so it is no wonder I might feel this way. I am usually up by 5:00 a.m. and have a morning routine I try to keep year round. Harvest time is more difficult but I excel at it in winter! Now that we have a new puppy it does involve a little extra time to take care of Blitz but he is just the cutest so I don’t mind! The darkness and the peacefulness of the morning is something I thrive upon to make a fresh start to the day.

Energize Pre-workout (aka Unicorn Juice) and my Devotional books

I typically drink my favorite pre-workout (Beachbody Energize) while I read a devotional. I just finished 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs and I highly recommend it. Then I review my day in my planner and write down my intentions for the day. These may be tasks to accomplish, people I need to contact, prayers I want to remember and so forth. I also make a list of 5 things I am grateful for from the previous day. This keeps me paying attention during the day so I look for the small blessings in life that make it wonderful. For example, the sunrise pictured above. I feel so fortunate to be able to sit in my driveway each morning and watch as the glorious sun rises to start our day. Next, I exercise for 30-40 minutes. Exercise is an important part of my day and life. It keeps me feeling strong and healthy and gives me energy. I can certainly tell when I am am not consistent. Then I hit the shower and head to the office -my commute is tough – 3 minutes tops!

The winter involves lots of office time and meetings. It is even called the “meeting season” for farmers. I have already been to one this week, Arkansas Rice, and will be heading to my winter peer group meeting tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear about each operation’s triumphs and struggles and run a few ideas by them as well. I will be back to share more of my winter days with you. Balance sheets and marketing plans, choosing seed to plant and adjusting our fertilizer recommendations to our fields and so much more to get ready for another crop. Plus a trip to Japan to visit our soybean buyers, but that isn’t for a few weeks. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your morning routine and you MUST comment about your favorites books for me to read in 2019. I have a short list but need some great ones to keep me motivated. For fun, I enjoy reading mystery and suspense novels and I am a sucker for a good motivational book! I hope to hear from you.