Invest in yourself to become more of an asset to the farm

Last week Darren Frye encouraged farm leaders to make a plan for the upcoming winter “off season.” This week in his Finance First blog he’s recommending a specific step to be added to that plan: to work on developing oneself.

Read about the benefits of a leader increasing their self-awareness and building their own leadership skills—and learn what you can do to get started this winter—in this week’s column at

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Shift gears to 2019 planning after fall harvest

As harvest comes to a close and we get the last of our to-do list for the season completed, farm leaders should be starting now on getting a plan in place for the 2019 crop year. Winter is on the way, and many think of it as the “off season,” but there is so much to do before the crop goes in the ground that Water Street Solutions CEO Darren Frye advises farmers to start planning now. Read about the process of reviewing the current season, identifying opportunities for improvement, prioritizing plans and tackling their execution—only in this latest blog post at

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Are you a competitive or cooperative negotiator?

When it comes to negotiation skills, there aren’t many resources better than Professor G. Richard Shell of Wharton School. He’s a recognized expert in negotiation and author of the book Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People. Late last year Prof. Shell was a guest on the Modern Farm Business® podcast, where he shared insights on becoming a more effective negotiator for a farm business. Shortly thereafter, we ran a story about that appearance in our Smart Series newsletter. Click on this post to read that article.

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Will rising interest rates affect your operation?

Many farmers do not pay attention to interest rates throughout the growing season. That means if they meet with their banker in the winter, they might be quite surprised to find out those rates have increased several times while they were paying no mind.

In the past few years rates have been inching their way up—which is atypical behavior considering the flat trend of rates over the last decade. Darren Frye explains in his latest blog post at Farm Futures how rates creeping toward increase may indicate that the time is right for farmers to get clear on current loans and assess what rising interest rates will do to their farm decision-making.

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Use your "off season"

As harvest hits its stride, some farmers might be looking forward to what comes next—a break. But in truth, there’s never really a slow time on the American farm; being a farmer is a year-round job. Sure, there are peak seasons of planting and harvest, but many times what you do between those seasons has a major impact on how it runs.

In this piece originally published in Corn + Soybean Digest, Dean Heffta discusses the common elements of each farm’s “off season,” and what sort of things to do during those times to make a greater impact on the peak seasons.

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Get farm budget in place for applying fall inputs

There’s a lot going on right now across the Corn Belt. Farmers are finishing up their harvest, finding out its results, and even starting up on the 2019 crop year. Most farmers don’t bother meeting with their banker or creating a budget for the upcoming year before applying their post-harvest dry fertilizer. By the time that meeting comes, money has already been spent on fertilizer application and cannot be recovered.

In this week’s Finance First post at Farm Futures, Darren Frye explains why Water Street Solutions advisors work on budgeting and figuring out their clients’ input costs per bushel, and how this data—along with weather, agronomics, and other factors—can be used to make informed decisions around efficiency and other topics, even before the crop year has begun.

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Modern Farm Business® podcast: Learning, knowing, deciding, doing

Farm leaders wear a lot of hats. Being flexible and knowledgeable in many areas is a prerequisite. This week Dean discusses four activities that a farm leader must engage in regularly to maintain an environment of teamwork which fosters constant learning and personal investment from their team.

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What to weigh when considering merging operations

In this week’s Finance First column, Water Street Solutions’ CEO, Darren Frye, answers an email from a farmer in Indiana who is thinking about merging operations with two other family members who currently run their own respective farms. Sure, on the surface it sounds like it would be an easy way to increase overall profits and have an even better time farming, but there is a lot to think about before jumping into a commitment such as this one. Read all about it in Darren’s latest column at

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Integrating women into the farm business decisions

When we conducted a survey of our own clients to find out how involved our clients’ wives were in the farming operation, we were dismayed to find out that more than half of the farm wives had no active role in the family business or the decisions being made for it. This causes the farm to miss out on a valuable perspective. In this piece written by Heather Lauf and originally published in our Smart Series newsletter, you’ll see how when everyone who has something at stake in the farm business gets involved—or is at least on board with what’s happening—the whole operation tends to improve and move forward.

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Podcast: Find your operation's Critical Number

In this episode, Dean introduces listeners to The Great Game of Business, a goal-oriented leadership and teamwork system that was conceived of in 1983 to save a failing International Harvester factory after its management team purchased it from the company—to eventually become SRC Holdings, which today is one of the nation's most successful companies. In particular, we're looking at one key aspect of the Great Game—the concept of the Critical Number, and how it can help any business attain more health and reach its operational improvement goals.

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As a farm business leader, who can you trust?

They say it’s lonely at the top. As a farm leader, it can be easy to feel alone when it comes to weighing and making the big decisions for the business. In this week’s Finance First blog at Farm Futures, Darren Frye explores the idea of who a farm leader can turn to as a sounding board. What people around you can be utilized as resources for making decisions that impact the business?

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Podcast: Exploring ag, the environment & regulation w/ Jay Lehr, Ph.D.

We welcome to the program this week author, speaker, consultant, and Science Director at Heartland Institute, Dr. Jay Lehr. He’s a leading authority on groundwater hydrology who has consulted with U.S. and foreign governments on environmental issues and policies. Dr. Lehr has authored over 30 books and more than 1,000 magazine and journal articles. In this episode of Modern Farm Business, he joins Dean to talk global trends in food supply & exports, domestic water supply, battling rampant misinformation in ag, crop insurance subsidies & more.

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Productivity is no accident

Having productive workers on the farm is something that takes deliberate steps from the leader to accomplish. It’s a process of informing everyone where the farm is going, what needs to get done for that to happen, and what behavior will and will not be tolerated. The leaders of the operation must create a teamwork atmosphere of contribution and commitment. In this piece previously published in Corn + Soybean Digest, Dean Heffta explains how that atmosphere can be crafted, using the Blake- Mouton Model as a reference.

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Know your farm's key business drivers

So many uniques responsibilities demand the farm leader’s attention each day. It’s important to wisely invest time and energy each day on decisions and actions that impact the farm’s growth, improvement and success. Many farmers are naturally drawn toward focusing in production-related areas of their operation—and of course that’s the heart of the business, but in this piece from Darren Frye published at, you’ll learn why shifting one’s focus to a handful of other key areas can help create greater success for the operation.

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Modern Farm Business® Podcast: The power of opposition

This week we’re talking about branching out of our comfort zone to become better leaders—and in particular, about seeking out and embracing opposition to grow your skill set and get a better framework for decision-making.

Click the title above to listen, or search “Modern Farm Business” wherever you get your podcasts to listen and subscribe.

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How well do you know your cash flow?

It’s so important as a farm leader to know your operation’s cash flow inside and out. Accurate projections of your farm’s upcoming cash needs—in addition to the accrual-based financial projections you probably already utilize—allows for much better planning and decision-making throughout the year.

In this piece written for Farm Futures, Water Street Solutions CEO Darren Frye explains how such data is more than just helpful—it should be a vital component of any farm’s standard operating procedure.

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Protect margins with new crop insurance plan

It’s almost too late to protect your 2019 crop risk with the new Margin Protection Program, which insures the margin of a farm rather than its overall revenue. MPP is similar to Area Revenue Protection (ARP) and Group Risk Income Protection (GRIP) in that it is an area-based protection plan. Any producer who previously opted for these plans should take a hard look at MPP and decide if it’s the right fit…But that producer would have to move quickly, because the deadline for 2019 crop is September 30, 2018.

To get a better idea if MPP is right for you, read this article from our latest Smart Series newsletter and then talk with your ag risk advisor.

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