Here in the northern hemisphere we’re going into the persephone days – colder, less than 12 hours of daylight – for most farmers, it’s the off season.


Depending on what the year was like, you may be dragging yourself to your last delivery, stumbling across the finish line with a sense of relief. You figure you’ll rest for a few weeks, ease into next year and do it all over again. That said, there a few things you can do during these few weeks that will reduce the chances that you’re struggling to reach the finish line when 2024 comes to a close. Take a week to breathe, then start easing into next year with a plan to crush the off season – and the year to come.

Figure Out What Happened Last Year


As the off season begins, pause to reflect on the past year. What was it that led to you dragging yourself towards the finish line? What happened on the days that ended in tears or excessive amounts of alcohol? Write those down NOW and make a conscious decision about whether you want to do them again. Trust me, after a couple of quiet weeks, the sharp edges of that pain will fade and you’ll be piling even more onto last year’s insanity. Write down your experiences in vivid detail and pull them out when you’re making plans for 2024.


Onto more practical activities, this is a great time to work through that pile of receipts that may have been sitting in your passenger seat for several weeks or months. Get your bookkeeping up to date and categorize your transactions.


But why stop there? Dive deep into the labyrinthine corridors of financial analysis and unravel the story that lies within. What actually made you money this year? Did you track enough data to figure out a cost of production for each item you sold? If not, what could you change to make that possible for next year?

Set Your Goals and Make Plans For Next Year


With your notes and financial discoveries in hand, it’s time to make plans for next year. Start off by figuring out what you’re going to cut. Cross reference your rants about the goats with how much money you actually made – or lost – on the beasts. Consider whether the tears prompted by tweezing tuna spines out of your fingers were worth the amount they brought in. Be ruthless in cutting, because that leaves you with space to refine what does sell and maybe run a few new experiments.


Consider what has worked well and doesn’t make you want to tear your hair out. Can you produce more of those items? If so, where will you sell them? If you sell to chefs, this is a great time to go visit and talk through their goals, what they need more of, and who else they could put you in touch with. If you’re selling into wholesale markets, can you increase your sales? Do you need to shift packaging? Sell your products first, then grow them.

Future You Will Thank You


Once you’ve gotten caught up and figured out your plans for the next year, it’s time to give some thought to poor future you. In April, poor future you will be running in circles trying to get everything done and will think that current you was an absolute genius if you take some time right now to get yourself prepped for tax season. Drop your CPA a line and start sending over the documents she’ll need to make sure your taxes are filed on time.


What about that organic recertification that always seems to land on the hottest day of summer? Or the surprise food safety inspection that happens on the day it pours buckets? Future you will think you’re worth your weight in gold if you go ahead and prep those forms and documentation for the year.


What about funding? Are you planning on making any big purchases? Check that your agricultural tax exemption is up to date, and renew it with any suppliers you know you’ll be buying from. What about working with NRCS on an EQIP contract? Take the time to have your agent come out to the farm and talk through your ideas so that your relationship with them is established when application time rolls around.


How about that newsletter that starts out strong and dwindles to nothing each year? This is a great time to plan out your content for the year, pre-write your articles and schedule out social media posts. Go through all the pictures you took on the farm and pick out the best to go up throughout the year.

These are just a few of the things I try to tackle in my off season time, but I’m sure the exact list will vary from farm to farm. The important thing is to use this time to build yourself a foundation that will keep you farming sustainably for year after year. Staggering across the finish line isn’t a sustainable way to live, so as tempting as it is to take this time completely off, use it to get yourself caught up and build systems that will get you to the end of the year without being completely drained .

Leave a Reply