Maneuvering through the numerous and ever-changing challenges presented by the agriculture industry is no small task. It takes more than having weather that cooperates or the newest equipment to overcome obstacles in this industry.
Having the right knowledge and reliable resources to lean on is crucial to get the job done — and that’s where a farm team comes in.
Having a trusted farm team provides a support network you can turn to for input and guidance as you make decisions for your operation. Consisting of individuals with varying backgrounds, a solid team will have experts of different topics. This ensures you always have someone to turn to for sound advice — regardless of the decision or challenge you’re faced with.
In addition to being subject matter experts, it’s vital each member on your team has a strong understanding of your farm’s operation. While it isn’t necessary for them to know the day-to-day operational details, being aware of your farm goals will ensure you’re both on the same page and the advice they offer sets you up for that success.
When equipped with a thorough understanding of your farm as well as their knowledge on a topic, each expert will play a crucial role in helping you make the best short-term decisions for your farm’s long-term success.
The overall knowledge and expertise provided collectively by your farm team should cover the basics, such as tax and accounting, lending, soil and agronomy, insurance, legal, and overall farm management. Although the job title of each team member may vary, the roles listed below are examples of individuals you’ll want to consider for your farm team.
Accountant — An experienced accountant who understands your business and offers valuable input will be a key player on your farm team year-round. Since your accountant knows your numbers, they also have a deep understanding of how those numbers should look when compared year over year.
Attorney — Although it may not the first person that comes to mind, an attorney is a valuable asset. They are a great source of information when looking at acquiring additional farm entities, changing the business structure, or doing estate planning. Turning to a trusted attorney who has a good grasp of your operation’s goals can not only assist you in making the best decision, but help you fully comprehend the options.
Lender — Rather than only turning to your financial services officer for the occasional loan request, your lender is someone you can and should rely on year-round. Developing a strong and honest relationship with your lender will allow them to offer critical insight and advice on business changes you plan to make.
Their expertise and benchmarking resources can help you evaluate your farm financial positions and operational practices. Additionally, having an ongoing relationship with your lender may help speed up the process of obtaining new credit.
If your lender already has a good grasp of your business and financial position, this could eliminate some of the information gathering for a new loan application.
Agronomist or crop nutritionist — With their extensive knowledge on soil science and vast understanding of the best practices to ensure nutrient-rich soil, having someone who specializes in agronomy will be beneficial. Their guidance will offer valuable support on the cropping side of your business. You may even already have someone like this on your team without realizing it, such as a soil consultant, seed salesperson, or fertilizer supplier.
Crop insurance agent — It is important to have a good relationship with your insurance agent, and not just from a liability or personal property standpoint. Your crop insurance agent is someone who should understand your farming practices and goals.
Their deep expertise in the various crop insurance products and knowledge of your farm will be a valuable resource to help ensure the best risk management plan, and they are a great resource when you’re thinking of or planning to make changes on your farm.
Once you’ve identified the key players you need on your team, the best way to start developing a strong relationship is by asking questions. When you meet with your lender, your accountant or any of the individuals you’ve identified, ask questions and share your farm’s long-term goals.
If you haven’t yet established a relationship with someone in each role, a great way to find individuals you can turn to for support is through events or online programs. Often, the speakers or presenters have been chosen for those events based on their expertise and are more than willing to work with you and answer questions you may have.
Regardless of how you develop your farm team, having a reliable group of experts you routinely turn to will help you make sound business decisions and help get you closer to accomplishing your farm’s goals.
*Written for the Michigan Farm News Dollars and Sense Column