These days, it feels like everything is more expensive and that there is no end in sight. The Dollar Tree is now “The Dollar and a Quarter Tree,” fertilizer and spray are twice as much as they were last year, and fuel must have taken a seat in a slingshot and isn’t coming down any time soon.
Eight dollar corn and $17 soybeans might keep us afloat for a while. But is this sustainable? How many years can we face these input prices without venturing back to the 1980s?
What can you do on the farm and in your personal life to adjust your operation in order to get through these times? Here are seven suggestions I have to help you save money and get some extra bang for your buck on the farm:
Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. (Especially now that eggs are headed towards $1 per egg!) Diversify your operation. Add some livestock, change up your crop rotation, consider different management practices.
Instead of buying all your inputs at retail and selling at wholesale, consider how you can sell at retail or above. Consider different grain marketing techniques. Consider selling your livestock direct off the farm to individuals or restaurants.
While supply chain issues have been blamed on COVID-19, it’s a scary place to be wondering if you’re going to be able to get parts for broken-down equipment. Think outside the box on repairs. My husband can fix anything. He is the poster child for figuring it out and making it work. Sometimes you have to have the part. This is a good time to have good relationships with your neighbors. Maybe somebody in the area has one sitting in the back of the shop.
4. Monthly memberships
Go through your accounts and look at the memberships that are automatically deducted every month. Really think about whether you need them or can live without them for now. I know it sounds silly, but every penny adds up, even in this economy.
I know you have equipment in your junk row. That equipment might not be junk for somebody else — it might bring you a pretty penny now. Even your old hog or chicken feeders and waterers are worth a lot of money to the right person. My husband’s motto with my house stuff, “If it hasn’t been used in six months, we don’t need it.” Take a hard look at what you really need and what you just want.
6. Find the boards and be on them
There are boards and groups of people making decisions that affect us every single day. Find the organizations and sit on the boards. Show up to meetings. Hold people accountable. Bring new ideas. Figure out solutions that will help people. I know you don’t have time for it; nobody does. But if you don’t do it, somebody else will. And we get to places like we are in now.
7. Share your story
I’ve seen a lot of my “city” friends complaining about the price of gas and food. Don’t be condescending or nasty about it. You have a vehicle that you drive around. You understand how frustrating it is. Do some simple math. Explain that your tractor holds x amount of diesel. That diesel costs $5 or whatever it is to operate. Explain how many gallons your tank holds. Talk about how that will only get you through so many hours. Tell them how many days that tractor is running. Estimate how much it costs you per month. If we aren’t sharing our story, somebody else is. And I guarantee it starts with $8 corn going directly in farmers’ pockets.
There are lots of you who have weathered so many storms. You’ve been through ups and downs. You have survived. And you will survive this. It’s frustrating to put over $1,000 of diesel in to your truck when it used to be half that. It’s hard debating about what needs to be done and what can wait until prices come back down. This too shall pass. Elections are important. Voting is important. It’s worth the time and energy to participate.
These are the reasons we put money aside. These are the times that we have to dig deep in order to get through. We will come out on the other side and when we do, remember these times and think twice before buying the brand-new thing. Think about whether an older model will do so you can save some cash to put away for a rainy day. Quit trying to keep up with the Joneses. Look at your numbers. Know your own operation. That is what is important. You don’t know your neighbor’s numbers. They do. Worry about your own. Make smart choices and you will survive.
Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.