Many assume that winter equals vacation time for farmers. I mean, we see them busy out in the fields in the spring and fall, so why wouldn’t they spend the off-season in their recliner?
Farmers are actually quite busy during the winter. Some have full-time jobs in addition to their farming duties while others care for livestock year-round, but there’s a lot more to farming than what we can see by driving through the country.
- Farmers are planners. They’re always thinking about what they can do better next year to produce a better crop, and they spend a lot of time in the winter putting together a plan for the next growing season. This is the time that they order their seed and decide what crops to plant in which fields.
- Just like you have to change the oil in your car regularly, farmers have to perform routine maintenance on their equipment. Since they can’t be in the field during the winter, they spend their days inside working on that equipment. Machinery also tends to break down during harvest, so winter is an ideal time for repairs.
- Beginning on January 1st, farmers really begin to focus on their taxes. Since a farm is a business, taxes are more complex. If a farm is incorporated, the farmer has both personal and business taxes to file, which can take quite a bit of time to complete- even with the help of the “tax guy”. They also keep detailed records of the value of all of their equipment, buildings, and land, as well as keep track of their expenses and income associated with that year’s crop.
- Finally, farmers do take some vacation time during the winter. They often travel to warmer climates for a week to attend various conferences to learn more about the agriculture industry, farming innovations, and to simply talk with farmers from other parts of the country. It’s important for farmers to keep in touch with the industry to learn about new practices so that they can continue to balance environmental stewardship with the best business practices for their farm.
I grew up on a farm managed by two part-time farmers who also held down full-time jobs in town, so this is definitely not an exhaustive list. Fellow farmers, what else would you add to this list?