There’s an ongoing misconception that farming is easy work that doesn’t require much intelligence: “Just plant seeds in the ground and the corn comes up.” In reality, farming is a lot more complicated and demanding than most people believe.
The comments below by Michael Bloomberg are an example of the misconceptions that many people have about farming.
Bloomberg will no doubt become the latest poster child for all of the stuffed-suit bureaucrats who comment about farming, but don’t know anything about it.
Increasing in Difficulty
In reality, farming has always been difficult. We imagine that new technologies like self-driving GPS-guided tractors will make farming easier. While some tasks have become automated, the competitive and high risk nature of farming requires that each farmer be able to gather big data, with analysis that can lead to actionable conclusions. Farming is more demanding than ever.
Here are some of the disciplines you’ll need to master to be a successful farmer.
1 – Technologist
Today’s farmers need to have proficiency in computer programs, tablet apps, smartphone apps, GPS guidance systems, real-time data gathering mobile software. There is proprietary on-board software used to guide and monitor tractors, combines, planters and other farming equipment. Software needs to be installed, updated, and maintained.
2 – Data Analyst
Farmers must be able to intelligently analyze data, imcluding:
- market data
- soil quality data
- field soil moisture mapping
- specialty seed yield comparisons
- geotagged harvest yield evaluation
- planting expenses
- harvest expenses
- cost benefit analysis of crop enhancement and farming products
There is a lot of data that needs to be gathered. This data needs to be converted into meaningful and actionable reports.
3 – Financial Analysts
Farmers need to be skilled financial analysts to evaluate the overall operating costs and financial returns for their farm. These expenses and financial returns can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. There are numerous expenses to track and continuously evaluate. Cost benefit analysis needs to be done for numerous expenses.
- Cost of seed
- Cost of herbicide
- Cost of pesticide
- Cost of fuel
- Cost of rented land (if any)
- Cost of rented equipment (if any)
- Employee costs and responsibilities (if any)
- Depreciation on equipment
- Taxes owed on land
- Selection and management of independently purchased healthcare insurance
- Farm insurance costs
- Ongoing equipment cost of maintenance and operation
- Planting costs
- Harvesting costs
- Soil management expenses
- Utility expenses for maintaining various grain handling and drying systems.
- Ongoing price of planting seed
- Ongoing local price and market prices of harvested product
In addition to being a financial analyst, farmers need to work with accountants and provide the financial data needed to complete tax returns.
4 – Safety Manager
Farming involves many potentially deadly situations. It’s imperative that farmers stay informed about the latest safety procedures and precautions. There is an increased danger because often farmers are working alone. It’s not like a road construction crew where five people are watching one person use a front loader. With farming, you don’t have people spotting you, and often nobody is around to call 911. So a situation that might not normally be deadly can become lethal. When first responders are requested, in rural areas response times aren’t as prompt as in urban areas. So, farmers need to be especially alert and highly educated about safety precautions.
5 – Personnel Manager
Larger farming operations may have employees that need to be supervised. This requires a special set of skills. There are also laws and regulations governing employee safety which need to be complied with. Even if your farming operation doesn’t have employees, you’ll undoubtedly need to supervise or coordinate with various service providers. All of this requires good people skills.
6 – Compliance Manager
There are numerous laws and guidelines that today’s farmers need to know about and comply with. Mistakes or oversights can result in fines and other financial losses. Laws and guidelines can change from one year to the next, so it’s important to stay informed.
7 – Risk Management
Based on all of the above variables, there are many risks that need to be considered with farming. Farmers need to plan strategically at planting and harvest time and work within sometimes very limited windows of opportunity. Mistakes in timing can result in significant losses.
There are future trends in farming such as regenerative agriculture which require new training and skills that farmers must acquire. Not mentioned above are all the additional complexities and variables involved with livestock farming. Farming can be physically demanding. There can be long hours. For many reason, farming can be one of the most challenging careers around. We need to appreciate, support, and value farmers for all they do.