Thinking Outside the Box

A short time ago I was in Billings, MT, attending a farm and ranch management conference. Wow, was I impressed! More than 50 percent of the businesses operated other enterprises along with the traditional commodities.

For example, six were doing entertainment, i.e. selling hunting, fishing, and the ranch experience. It was interesting that they were doing this at little or no additional overhead cost. To compete globally, others were selling their machinery and equipment and doing intensive grazing in a sustainable manner. This not only put more weight on cattle, but they were able to conserve water and soil.

What was most impressive was that the group had formed informal bonds with others at the conference. Between meetings they were required to meet predetermined goals and objectives and report back to the board. Their peers would provide suggestions and perspectives and share ideas. Issues ranged from production practices to estate and family business transfer. With 20 different operations involved, this was powerful way to keep the progress going by being accountable to their peers.

The director of this program, Dave Pratt, indicated that return on assets was 5 percent higher for this group compared to the average farmer or rancher.

Your File List

Recently I was asked which critical pieces of information or items should be in everyone’s file list, or things people should think about to keep them ahead of the curve. While my list is not exhaustive, here are some important items that everyone should have or attempt to obtain.

  • Do you have a will? This is critical if you have children.
  • Have you given someone the power of final medical directives, if you are unable to do so?
  • Do you have proper liability insurance, even if you rent or lease?
  • Do you have at least two credit cards? You will need them if you travel or order items off the Internet.
  • Have you checked your credit score annually?
  • Do you have two to six months of living expenses in cash?
  • Have you checked your credit score after a long hospital stay or credit account dispute?
  • Have you been saving 2-5 percent of your net income for retirement?
  • Do you get two to six hours of reading or training per week to update your mind?
  • Are your critical records in a safe deposit box that has access or a place one can find them?


My e-mail address is:sullylab@vt.edu

Editors' note: Dave Kohl, The Corn and Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist at Virginia Tech. He recently completed a sabbatical working with the Royal Bank of Canada. He is now back at Virginia Tech with his academic appointment, which is teaching, extension, and applied research.

To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures type Dave Kohl in the Search blank at the top of the page.

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