What Does a Farmer Do in Winter?

On his Facebook page, I Am Agriculture Proud, Ryan Goodman recently asked his farming and ranching friends to share they spend their winter months.  My winter months are filled with so many different activities that I decided to devote today’s blog post to answering Ryan’s question more in depth.

There isn’t any field work for Midwest farmers from about Thanksgiving to Easter, but I still manage to stay quite busy during “the slow winter season” by (1) planning next season’s crop (2) attending meetings and completing continuing education; and (3) communicating with consumers.

Once harvest is complete and the machinery is back in the shed, I finalize plans for next season’s crop.  I buy inputs and fix machinery.  I also care for 4,000 head of hogs.  Winter farm chores and moving snow seems to keep me as busy as ever.  I haven’t had to move as much snow this winter as I have in past years, but it seems the snow always falls when I’m either loading out hogs or bringing in a new group.  Murphy’s Law, right?

Congressman King

Winter also is the “meeting season,” which I consider my continuing education time.  To farm in this era of government regulation, I need to keep up with the current laws.  The commodity groups to which I belong are very active with programs to make me a better farmer.  For example, PQA Plus was developed by the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA), the National Pork Board (NPB) and National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). This is such a great program, teaching pork producers the latest and best known techniques to raise pigs.  Most pork processors require pork producers to be PQA certified in order to sell hogs to them.

In addition to attending the commodity group’s annual meetings and continuing ed programs, winter is the season for machinery shows like the Iowa Power and Machinery Show that was held recently in Des Moines.  There is also a show on fertilizer and herbicides. In addition, Extension offers many regional and statewide winter programs on everything from pork production to crop production and insect identification.

Yesterday I participated in a meeting in our county seat that was sponsored by the Franklin County Farm Bureau.  We were honored that U.S. Congressman Steve King visited a local school system (CAL) in the morning where he watched our Ag in the Classroom program in action.  At noon, Congressman King shared his thoughts about the current session of Congress and then we had the opportunity to talk about issues that concerned us.

Another area that I work on more during the winter months is the art of communicating with non-farmers.  Yep, the commodity groups even teach that!  I’m even going to do some teaching myself on Feb. 23 when the AgChat Foundation hosts a regional conference in Rochester, Minn.  This group has done an amazing job helping me to understand that the way I talk may be a foreign language to someone not familiar with farming.  Terms that are familiar to farmers like me aren’t always the same slang used in the city.  Who knew?

Off season? Yeah, right. I didn’t even mention all the desk time required to get our tax returns ready. Off to the office I go!