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Every farm needs short-term operating plan

If you are laid up for weeks, someone needs to know how your farm operates. An online tool can help.

Mindy Ward

March 8, 2022

3 Min Read
Farmer standing in front of crop irrigation equipment working on laptop
TAKE THE TIME: If a life event renders you temporarily unable to make decisions for your farm, there is an online tool to help you develop a short-term operating plan to ensure your farm runs smoothly in your absence. Hello World/Getty Images

Emergencies happen. Is your farm prepared to function without you for a few weeks or months? Do you have a plan in place to let others know how to manage the day-to-day of your operation?

There could be a variety of reasons why the farm’s main decision-maker is unable to make decisions, ranging from health issues to military deployment. The purpose of a plan is to have information organized for family members to use to continue operating the farm.

A team of University of Missouri Extension ag business specialists developed a short-term operating planning tool. Short term is defined as “a couple of weeks to six months.” The plan is free to any farmer regardless of location.

Farm plan tool

The Short-Term Operating Plan for Farms and Ranches was designed for most types of farms and ranches. It is divided into seven parts, which include spaces for horticulture and woodlands or timber producers.

Here is a brief explanation of what you can find in the remaining four sections that deal mainly with row crop and livestock production:

General information. This includes financial information such as bank accounts and loans, and farm advisers such as attorneys, Extension specialists and insurance contacts. It also includes rental agreements with landlord name and contact information. It also has space to list individual employee payroll.

Livestock information. Here you provide animal inventory, including number of head and location. There is a spot to explain feeding practices, whether detailed feed rations or grazing practices. There is also space to enter contact information for feed suppliers, along with the farm veterinarian.

Crop information. In this section, row crop fields are identified. There is also a place to write down fertilizer and pesticide applications. You can also provide contact information, should custom applicators need to be called to fill in. There is a place to provide a name and number for seed dealers, crop consultants or crop insurance advisers. MU Extension recommends printing off Farm Service Agency maps if people are keeping a hard copy, or upload the maps to a file to be accessed easily.

Equipment information. This section provides a brief list of inventory and, more importantly, the location of equipment. This section also allows for payment schedules for machinery, along with a listing of warranties. You can also add contact information for preferred mechanics.

Farm families using the plan should complete only the parts needed for the operation.

Online assistance

This Short-Term Operating Plan for Farms and Ranches is available online for download as a fillable PDF, or it can be printed. It can be accessed via computer, tablet or phone.

Make sure to print out a hard copy of the plan. or save it on your desktop for quick reference. Either way, alert family members where you are storing the short-term farm operations plan in case of an emergency.

MU Extension also worked with the University of Minnesota to create the website, agplan.umn.edu. The website allows users to include more information and more customizations, including attachments such as farm maps.

AgPlan contains tips and samples to help guide users. It is free to use with an email and password. The bonus is you can choose to share the plan with others by adding email addresses.

Funding for this project was provided by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

University of Missouri Extension contributed to this article.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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