As farming operations grow and become more complex, the task of the general manager becomes more difficult. There are a myriad of details in each area of the business, and efforts in each of those areas must be planned with precision timing to ensure everything stays on schedule throughout the year, from purchasing inputs through preparation of the ground and equipment, planting, spraying, scouting, harvesting, storing and/or transporting, and marketing.
The general manager must ensure all parts of the farming operation work together beautifully.
The role of the general manager, overseeing all the people, processes, and precision timing involved, is like that of a maestro conducting a symphony orchestra. All orchestra members must be capable, practiced, and ready to play their instruments. Each instrument must be tuned to harmonize with the others. Then, to make it all come together beautifully, timing is critical. With enthusiasm and confidence, the maestro must conduct the musicians to produce the desired sounds. How? The conductor has a carefully designed plan conveyed by his sheet music.
A calendar is the farm manager’s sheet music.
I am suggesting to you that a carefully designed farm calendar for the year is as essential to you in managing your farm as that sheet music is to the maestro. Start building your farm calendar today and add to it as you move through the year. Here are some basic steps to follow:
- Set up a spreadsheet in Excel or other calendaring tool with dates across the top. These can be laid out in monthly and quarterly segments as demonstrated below, and the calendar can extend one year or more.
- List key areas of the farm down the side. You can use the key functional areas of your business such as operations, financials, human resources, G&A, business marketing, crop sales, and technology. Then, for each area, list the categories of activities to be calendared.
- Write specific tasks within the appropriate categories in the calendar, and fill in the dates for each task by extending the colored line from start to finish date.
- Share this calendar with all owners and managers and then with key employees; post it in a prominent place
- Update the calendar weekly or monthly, noting which tasks have been completed and which have dates that must be revised. Add tasks and categories as needed.
Example of a Farm Calendar
The partial calendar depicted below illustrates some types of activities that can be included on your farm calendar. Key benefits of keeping a farm calendar include the ability to
- See the big picture at a glance
- Note key “go-times”
- Sequence activity assignments
- See how activities in all areas of the farm business interact and affect one another
A key skill of a successful maestro is ensuring all parts of the orchestra are working together in harmony. Your job as general manager is to ensure all activities of the farm are done properly and in a timely fashion. You know how disruptive and costly it is if your equipment isn’t serviced and ready when you need it in the field or if you’re ready to plant and still waiting for your seed to arrive. With such a complex business, any number of things could go wrong. A farm calendar will help you plan ahead, keep track of the big picture and all its interrelated parts, and verify daily that you are on course for a successful year.
Family Farms Group is a member-owned organization of family farms that provides expertise in many areas of farm business management. Subscribe to our blog to get our latest articles delivered to your inbox.