Top 10 “To Do” Items for Your Farm Business This Year

January is always a good time to “start fresh”, tackle farm business projects we have been putting off, and plan for the year ahead.

Here are 10 Things to do for your business this year:

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1.  Review your will (or get one!)

Of course no one wants to think about their death, but having a will is critical in protecting the future of your business and your family. Who will take care of things if you should pass? Will the business be passed on to others or sold ?
If you already have a will, when was the last time you reviewed it? Have things in your life changed and is your will up to date with all your current assets ?

2.  Review insurance policies

Another task that can easily be put off. This may include health, life, or farm insurance.   Likely it will only take a few minutes of your time, but it is time well spent should something ever happen to you or your farm!

3.  Review your payables/receivables

This is the first step in preparing your yearly budget. Take the time to go through your bills, loan statements and other accounts to make sure you know what you owe and of course what is owed to YOU !

4.  Finish up year end financials (if your year end is Dec. 31st !)

Congratulations to you if you happen to be one of the few people who have all their year end financials in order!   If not get busy and get them cleared up so you can start the year fresh, knowing your books are up to date .

5.  Do production plans for the coming year

This will vary a bit, depending on what you produce. It may include grazing, crop, breeding or forage plans.

6.  Prepare a financial budget

I know you all just groaned to your selves at this one. Preparing a budget can seem overwhelming but it can be quite simple if you have the right tools.    If you need some help with this one don’t be afraid to ask for support !

7.  Figure out every business members goals for the coming year

Sometimes we get so busy thinking about the future of the business that we can forget to check in with the family and co-workers to hear what their own goals, plans and challenges are. As we start a New Year, why not sit down and listen to the needs of the people within the business!

8.  Set goals for your business

Slightly different than our personal goals, these are goals for the business as a whole. Are their changes you want to make, targets you want to hit in regard to production or finances?   How will you do that?

9.  Figure out your cost of production

Do you know how much profit you are making for every unit produced? How much is that cow really making you, or how much are you profiting from the bushel of wheat?

10.  Take a vacation!

No kidding. No one can work ALL the time and stay happy and healthy. Everyone needs to re-charge so we can operate through those busy months with energy and enthusiasm. Even just a weekend get away, or a night a week doing something you love can make all the difference to the success of your business.

This may seem like a lengthy list, and you probably won’t achieve all of these things overnight.  Over time though, remembering to have these key elements of our business in order will support us in creating a successful future.

All the best to you in the coming year!

Jen

 

Preparing for an Accountant in your Farm Business

Questions Accountants Will Ask You In Their Office:

Already In Business

1)  Client’s track record with business

2)  Past tax returns

3)  Past financial statements

 

Never In Business

1)  Find out the need to register for GST

2)  Incorporate or not

3)  Selecting year end

 

Generally the first meeting with an accountant will be to educate the client and the accountant.

 

How To Be A Good Client: Things That Bug Accountants

  1. Be open with your accountant-tell them everything they need to know or you think might be important.
  2. Don’t hold back any information-be willing to communicate.
  3. Be organized with your records
    • Don’t bring in a mashed up hard to read receipts and paper
    • A shoebox is not the worst thing you can do to your accountant
    • The worst thing you can do is mix up business and personal expenses together
  4. Book appointments-don’t just show up.  Accountants like to be prepared when you talk with them.
  5. Pay your accounting fees promptly!
  6. Writeoffs.  These can be very gray.  Some accountants will be more aggressive than others.  The accountant doesn’t have the time to determine the validity of every receipt they look at.
  • the accountant will go be what is reasonable
  • you will have to be able to defend any expenses

 

The biggest mistake accountants see is people not filing on time!

Copyright: Freedom Investment Club 2005

Finances can be messy! Have trouble organzing your stuff? Read on to find out how to create a financial snapshot.

Hiring an Accountant for your Farm

How Accountants in Agriculture Charge

  1. Hourly – Usually charge between $90/hr-$150/hr, depending on the complexity of the job.  The vast majority of accountants actually work on an hourly basis.
  2. Value Driven – When the job will be time intensive and the accountant may get a contingency (cased on sales or revenues)-this is rare.  Also, if you bring the accountant a showbox, they may chare you a flat fee to get everything sorted out.

The cost to prepare a return can vary widely, depending on whether you bring a shoebox of receipts or very good records.

The typical corporate tax return will cost between $1000-$2000 to file.

 

Three Kinds Of Agricultural Accountants

  1. CA (Chartered Accountant)- Work in public practice (giving advice to clients) or in industry.
  2. CMA (Certified Management Accountant)- Work in industry (for a company) managing their books.
  3. CGA (Certified General Accountant)- Will generally work in public practice, may specialize in certain area.  Similar to a CA, generally have clients that run a smaller business.

 

Does Size Matter?

Depending on your situation, this type of firm will fit you best:

Owner-managed-company:  Small Firm

50+ Employees, $20 million annual sales:  Medium Firm

Publicly traded and multinational companies:  Large Firm

 

Questions To Ask Your Accountant Before Hiring:

  1. Should I incorporate?
  2. Do you specialize in any area?
  3. How big is your firm?
  4. What kind of clients do you deal with?
  5. Any Industry Knowledge?

*Most importantly trust your gut and choose someone you have chemistry with and can trust. 

 

Questions Accountants May Ask You On The Phone:

  1. What type of business are you in?
  2. Is your business making money or losing money?
  3. What is your family situation?  The accountant will be looking for income-splitting ideas.
  4. How capital intensive is your business?
  5. Are you going to register for GST?

Asking the accountant how they deliver their service and explain things to you is very important!

 

Copyright: Freedom Investment Club 2005

 

How to get Started in Agritourism

If you want to make some extra money on the farm have you ever considered agritourism? Agritourism is “any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch” and includes a variety of different activities – from farm stays to horse riding adventures. Though agritourism stats are hard to come by, a study in British Columbia indicates that the average agritourism operator generates revenue of $98,000.  In Ontario, it is estimated that agritourism generates $596 million in sales and a $1.8 billion impact on the provincial economy.

So, if you’re interested in cashing in on this growing opportunity, check out this video to learn more.

 
Photo courtesy of Rennet Stowe

Want to learn more about agritourism check out Is Agritourism Good for Small Family Farmers?.

Tips for Reducing Weaning Stress

It is once again the time of year when many producers begin to think about weaning their calves.   In this two part series shared with us by Beef Cattle Research Council we learn alternative methods for low stress weaning, along with how stress affects calves and our profits.

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Part 1:  Reducing Weaning Stress

Minimizing calf stress at weaning is not only possible, but provides important animal welfare benefits and likely animal health benefits as well.It just takes an open mind towards different methods and an eye towards good management”

– Karin Schmid of Alberta Beef Producers

Part 2:  Improving Profits

In the previous article, we talked about methods to reduce weaning stress in calves. In this article, we’ll highlight the economic benefits of doing so.

“Making weaning a low stress event should always be the goal, whether the calves will stay at home for breeding or feeding, go through internet, satellite or auction mart sales, or head directly to a backgrounding or finishing feedlot. Minimizing stress makes for happy calves, spouses and neighbors, and likely has economic benefits as well, especially for those who sell ‘reputation’ cattle or retain ownership. High levels of stress or sickness can negatively impact the profits of producers who retain an ownership stake in their calves past weaning”

– Karin Schmid and Reynold Bergen of the BCRC

We wish everyone the best of luck with their fall weaning programs.  Now it is your turn to share:

What are some useful tips you have for beef producers at weaning time?

Do you have questions about best practices for weaning calves?

Leave us a comment below and join the discussion!

Pumpkin Farms are Great for Agritourism

Thanks to the celebration of Halloween pumpkins have changed from being just another vegetable to a specialty crop used for much more than just a food source.  Once used as a food source for Native Americans and early American Settlers, the pumpkin has become a celebrity in the vegetable world.

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Today’s pumpkins are carved into spooky faces, decorating our homes and providing alternative sources of revenue for farmers.

New pumpkin farms are cropping up all over the place as a means for farmers to diversify their farms and create new sources of revenue.  These farms are becoming part of the agri-tourism movement as farmers turn corn fields into mazes and pumpkin patches into “u-pick” adventures complete with wagon rides, haunted houses and craft events among other things.

These type of agri-tourism enterprises may be something for smaller farms or beginning farmers to consider if they are operating on limited funds or a small land base.

While you may not be harvesting your own pumpkins this fall, we wanted to share with you this short video of some harvest time family fun, as well as a few of our favorite DIY pumpkin projects.   From yummy eats to dog treats, The Great Pumpkin can do it all!

#1 – Pumpkin Latte

Something to warm you up on those cool fall days !

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www.farmgirlgourmet.com

#2 – Fabric Modge Podge Dollar Store Pumpkins

An easy craft project to do once the days get shorter and you have evenings to spare!

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http://www.the36thavenue.com/2011/10/mod-podge-fabric-dollar-store-pumpkins.html

 #3 – Pumpkin Pull-apart Bread with Vanilla Glaze

This is a sure fire hit to share with family and friends!

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http://thefarmgirlrecipes.blogspot.ca/2011/09/pumpkin-pull-apart-bread-with-buttered.html

#4 – Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

Don’t forget about our 4 legged friends this fall!

Photo courtesy of www.simmertildone.com

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http://simmertilldone.com/2009/10/07/retriever-retriever-pumpkin-eater/

 

How to Keep your Farm Business Organized

About the Project

I am sure that at this point if you are like the majority of normal people on this earth, you will be sitting staring at the pile of documents in a shoebox patting yourself on the back for at least making the effort to shove them into a box.

The good news is that for not much more effort you can have all your financial documents organized and ready to be used at a moments notice.  Its simple, easy and the majority of your time will be spent in the initial set up.

If something should ever happen to the person in your business that takes care or the day to day aspects of your businesses or personal finances this will help other come in and understand where everything is sitting.  So valuable!


Materials and Tools

  • File folder box
  • 13 folders
  • Tax returns for the last 7 years
  • Your individual retirement savings and investment accounts
  • Your children’s education/investment savings plan statements
  • Your will and living will.  (If you need to make one talk to your lawyer, or if it’s quite simple, go to Legal Wills)
  • Your home and auto insurance
  • Your life, disability and critical illness insurance
  • Your group benefits plan
  • Your company retirement plan
  • Your credit card debts
  • Your loans for car, student loan, line of credit, other loans
  • Your mortgage
  • Your bank statements
  • Your lawyer, accountant and financial advisor information

 

General Instructions

Once you have collected all the above personal information, simply file it into individual folders.  Then take a snap shot of all the information for you to update every 12 months after that, using the downloadable chart provided.  Keep a record of this on your computer and also in one of your files in your box.

Judi Graff on why a professional business needs a professionally designed site

Our resident web expert contributor, Judi Graff of the FarmNWife, reviews our members blogs and gives some helpful tips on how to improve communications through social media. Check out her review of John Walkey’s, Bridge Business & Technology Inc. website.

Website Critique – Clean & Uncluttered is a great start

Our resident web expert contributor, Judi Graff of the FarmNWife, reviews our members’ blogs and gives some helpful tips on how to improve communications through social media.  Check out her review of Cara Conroy-Low’s, Clear Sky Farm website.

Pickle vegetables for winter inexpensively with dry salt

Dry salting is a practical and inexpensive way to preserve vegetables. It is essentially a method of pickling that was popular in the early twentieth century. At that time, it was promoted as an alternative to canning, in order to conserve glass, tin, and fuel in time of war.

If you are already familiar with making sauerkraut or kimchi, dry salting is a nearly identical process, except for the amount of salt used. When making sauerkraut or kimchi, vegetables are layered with a low concentration of salt (2 1⁄2 to 5 percent by weight). This low level of salt promotes lactic fermentation, which gives these products their characteristic tangy flavors. Dry salting uses a much higher concentration to prevent fermentation, 20 to 25 percent by weight.

In contrast to sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, dry salted vegetables are preserved in a fresh-like state. However, the heavy salt used in this method is out of step with today’s tastes. Yet, many people familiar with salted vegetables consider them to be superior to either canned or frozen ones. You might want to try preserving a small amount of salted vegetables before preserving an entire crop. You may find that learning to use salted products requires some experimentation.

As with sauerkraut or kimchi, dry salting makes brine, which forms when the added salt helps to leach water from the vegetables. In order to prevent the top layer of vegetables from spoiling and ruining the entire batch, you must make sure that the solids remain completely submerged in brine at all times. Also, you must immediately remove any bloom (also called “scum”) whenever it appears floating on the surface of the brine.

During storage, you must store salted vegetables at cool temperatures, preferably 34°F to 40°F (1°C to 4°C), or no higher than 50°F (10°C). If salted vegetables develop a bad odor or color, green or black mold, or soft or slimy texture, the product has spoiled and you must discard it (without tasting).

Vegetables to preserve by dry salting

Many cruciferous vegetables are easy to preserve by dry salting. These include cabbages, turnips, rutabagas, and kohlrabies. You slice or shred these vegetables and layer raw with salt, just as you would for sauerkraut or kimchi. In addition, sliced okra and green (unripe) tomatoes can be prepared in the same way.

Other vegetable must be blanched before dry salting. These include fresh green beans, cauliflower florets, celery slices, leafy greens (such as spinach, kale, chard, and bok choy), and shelled peas. For best results, blanch these vegetables before layering with dry salt. Corn is another good vegetable for dry salting. Boil ears of corn for 10 minutes, and then cut only the top 3/4 of the kernel from the cob.

General method for dry salting vegetables

This is the general method that you can use to dry salt almost any type of cut vegetable. Note that other vegetables and larger pieces, such as small whole tomatoes, beets, carrots, or onions are not preserved with dry salt, rather using brine and a slightly different process than the one detailed here.

1. Wash, sterilize, and air-dry a salting container. The traditional container is a glazed pottery crock. However, you may use any non-metallic, non-reactive vessel, such as glass, food-grade plastic (no garbage or storage bins), or wood. Glass jars work well, from 1 quart to 1⁄2 gallon or larger. As a rough guide, a 1 quart (or 1 liter) container holds about 2 pounds (or 1 kilo) shredded vegetables, and a 5 gallon (or 5 liter) container holds 25 pounds (or 5 kilos). For larger pieces (such as celery or okra slices), the yields are about half this amount.

2. Select mature (slightly under-ripe) produce that is in perfect condition. Reserve “seconds” for another preservation method, such as making pickles or relish using vinegar. Wash, trim, and slice or shred vegetables. After preparing, weigh to the nearest tenth of a pound or one gram.

3. Calculate the amount of pickling salt needed, from 20 to 25 percent of the weight of the vegetables. Here are the calculations to use:

  • Pounds vegetables × 0.20 (or 0.25) × 16 = ounces salt for 20 (or  25)    percentby weight
  • Pounds vegetables × 0.20 (or 0.25) × 16 = ounces salt for 20 (or 25) percent by weight
  • Grams vegetables × 0.20 (or 0.25) = grams salt for 20 (or 25) percent by weight
  • For example: 7 pounds X 0.20 X 16 = 22.4 ounces salt for 20% salt concentration
  • For example: 3 kilos X 0.25 = 750 grams for 25% salt concentration
  • Use canning, pickling, or kosher salt (either fine- or coarse-grained). Do not use table salt or sea salt, which contain additives and minerals that may interfere with a successful salting process.

4. Steam-blanch prepared vegetables. It is permissible, but not necessary to blanch cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, and kohlrabies, as well as okra or green tomatoes. To blanch other vegetables, place cut vegetables in a basket or rack over boiling water, cover tightly, and steam for 5 minutes. After blanching, cool vegetables completely on shallow trays in the refrigerator, or a cool location. Pat dry before packing with salt.

5. Work in batches no larger than 5 pounds. Toss food and salt together in a large bowl until evenly mixed. Pack the salted vegetables into the sterilized container, gently pressing or tamping each layer to draw water from the food. Press using your fist, or some tool such as a meat pounder, potato masher, or the bottom of a bottle. Be sure to scrape all salt from the mixing bowl into the salting container.

6. Cover and weight the vegetables to help brine formation and to keep the vegetables from floating. To cover the vegetables, use a layer of plastic wrap, cheesecloth, Swiss chard leaf, grape leaves, or a cabbage-stem end (a thick slice cut from the base of a cabbage). Be sure to press the cover onto the surface of the food without trapping air underneath. To weight the vegetables, use a brine-filled plastic bag, a water-filled jar, or a can of food.

7. After 24 hours, check for adequate brine formation. If the liquid does not cover the food by 1 to 2 inches, prepare brine of the same strength (20 percent or 25 percent). Use 8 1/2 to 12 ounces (or 200 to 250 grams) salt per quart (or liter) of distilled or boiled water.

8. Store vegetables completely covered in brine at all times, in the refrigerator below 40°F (4°C), or in a cool cellar no higher than 50°F (10°C). Protect the surface of the brine from insects with a plate or paper cover.

9. Check the container one or two times a week for a white bloom (“scum”) and remove it immediately if it appears. It is not harmful, but it can create off flavors and shorten the storage life of the salted vegetables if not removed. Use a clean cover and weight after checking for bloom. If the vegetables develop green or black mold, soft texture, or rotten odors, they have spoiled. Discard spoiled vegetables without tasting. Under ideal conditions, dry salted vegetables may be stored up to 6 months.

How to use salted vegetables

When removed from the brine, salted vegetables will be firm and slightly darkened in color. You can prepare and serve them in the same ways you would if they were fresh, including eating raw in salads. You may want to remove some of the salt, which can be done in one of the following ways:

  • Drain salted vegetables and add to soups or stews. Use 1/4 pound vegetables for every 2 quarts of soup or stew containing meat, potatoes or rice, root vegetables, and unsalted canned tomatoes. Smmer for 1 to 2 hours or more to redistribute the salt evenly throughout the dish.

  • Rinse salted vegetables under running water. Use in salads, or cook in any recipe that calls for fresh vegetables, including side dishes, soups, and stews.

  • Soak salted vegetables for 2 to 12 hours in several changes of water, until saltiness is reduced to a desirable level. Use 1 gallon of water for each pound of vegetables.

  • Boiling salted vegetables for 10 minutes before using is recommended by some sources. This is especially important if exact procedures are not followed, especially by using damaged vegetables, carelessly washing produce, not using a clean and sanitized container, storing the vegetables above 50°F (10°C) for any length of time, allowing vegetables to float above the surface of the brine, and not removing bloom or scum when it appears.

Salted green tomatoes

Unlike their juicy, red ripe counterparts, unripe green tomatoes are dry and sour. Salting is a wonderful way to preserve them, making them ready for everything from salad to pasta.

Makes about 1 quart

2 pounds or about 1 kilo (about 10 small) hard, green unripe tomatoes

2/3 cup (6.4 ounces or 200 grams) pickling salt (do not use table, sea, or iodized salt)

1. Wash, core, and halve or slice the tomatoes thickly (3/8 inch or 1 cm).

2. Layer the tomatoes and salt evenly into a sterilized 1-quart canning jar, pressing lightly to extract liquid from the tomatoes. Cover and weight the tomatoes. Set aside in a cool, dark place.

3. In 24 hours, if the juices do not cover the tomatoes completely, prepare very strong brine by dissolving 1/4 cup (60 grams) pickling salt in one cup (250 ml) distilled or boiled water. Cool before pouring over tomatoes to cover completely by at least 1 inch.

4. Store tomatoes in the refrigerator (below 40°F (4°C ), or in a cool cellar no higher than 50°F (10°C). Protect the surface of the brine from insects with a plate or paper cover.

5. Check the container once a week for a white scum floating on the surface of the brine. Remove it immediately, if it appears. Use a clean cover and weight. Keep the vegetables completely submerged in brine at all times during storage. Under ideal conditions, salted vegetables may be stored in the refrigerator up to 6 months.

Rinse salted green tomatoes for use as a winter salad, dressed with honey-mustard vinaigrette and garnished with roasted nuts. Prepare fried green tomatoes as you would fresh ones for a delicious supper or side dish. Rinse or soak salted tomatoes to remove salt, and dry them on paper towels. Coat slices with flour, egg, and cornmeal, and then fry in oil or fat until crispy and nicely browned. I like to serve these with a chunky tomato sauce. Finally, salted green tomatoes are delicious when tossed with hot pasta, along with fresh parsley, lemon zest, and mild cheese such as ricotta or mozzarella. Add chicken or salmon if you want a little protein, but keep the flavors simple and fresh-the preserved tomatoes already provide a strong, salty accent.

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For more articles like this, please check out Carol Cancler’s blog here.