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Whether a part-time or a full-time farmer, dealing with dollars and cents is often one’s least favorite aspect of the operation.

As Jesse Schwanke works with farmers through the adult ag education program at North Shelby High School in Shelbyville, he’s been able to take home some valuable information that can be applied to young and beginning farmers like those being served through FCS Financial’s Young, Beginning, Small (YBS) Farmer program.

And, Schwanke’s advice to young producers begins with having a good handle on where they are financially.

He and FCS Financial’s Jack Glover offer these 4 tips for farmers:

1. Get away from the upside down balance sheet.

“There are a lot of lenders that fill out the balance sheet for the farmer, while the farmer looks at it upside down,” Schwanke explains.

“I don’t think that’s healthy for the farm economy,” Schwanke says. “The farmer has to know his bottom line, whether part-time or full time. Farming is a business. It involves a lot of dollars.”

He adds that business training is every bit as important to an operation as knowing how to mix the right ration for a beef cow or knowing how to plant the right seed and spray the right chemicals on a corn field.

2. Keep up with technology.

“That’s an advantage young farmers have over older, veteran producers,” Schwanke notes. “Technology is changing rapidly. I think there are a lot of opportunities to improve efficiency in agriculture by using new technologies.”

3. Familiarize yourself with risk management.

According to FCS Financial’s Jack Glover, “Farmers need to not get themselves in a place where there’s no way out. Information is the number one step to avoid this.”

Glover re-emphasized the need for producers to know their bottom line.

4. Get organized.

Glover says, “Having a handle on inventories and keeping records of both income and expenses is crucial. “Where’s the money going and what are you spending it on?”

“Times have been pretty good for farmers in recent years,” Schwanke says noting aggressive expansion in the ag industry. “I hope we haven’t become too over-leveraged.”

Schwanke is hopeful farmers have stayed conservative enough that if the farm economy turns south, producers will be able to hold on. “I think cash flow and liquidity is a big part in that.”

He sums up, “If we have drought, coupled with low prices, I think we could be in some trouble. And, that’s going to hit the young, beginning farmers first.”

Author’s Note: Adult Ag Education programs are offered at high schools throughout the state through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. If you’d like to know how you can get involved with an adult ag education program, you’ll find more information online at

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