FFN Opinion: The crops are off, now what?

Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Australian Community Media. Here’s the most recent yarn from FFN Director Tim Flynn.

It's been a tough few years for you. Unprecedented drought, bushfires and market fluctuations have brought significant difficulty to you and your family farm. You had some rain earlier this year which filled your moisture profile, you rolled the dice one more time and sowed in the autumn. You had your share of nervous moments during harvest, but now that bumper crop is off and your headers are back in the shed. The cut out party is just about to begin and you sit back and think to yourself, "The crops are off, what next?"

I think it's time to plan. A time to plan for Christmas, a time to plan next year's production calendar, a time think about a drought plan, maybe even a time to plan for business succession.

Christmas is now well and truly on the horizon, and for many rural Australians Christmas is a time for everyone to return back to the family farm. We can ensure Christmas goes off without a hitch with some careful planning. A good place to start is to make sure food, drinks and the secret santa are organised, but that's not the place to finish. I think there is another step that might help. The next step is to make another time to talk about all those other things that are on your mind. Another time to talk about next year's production, a drought plan and a succession plan, set aside another time for these big ticket items so they don't have to be covered off on Christmas day.

Family farms are the backbone of Australian Agriculture, but with family farms come families, and with families come people and people age, which creates a need to pass things from one generation to the next. This year it's probably been a long time since you have all seen each other. Enjoy your Christmas this year, and consider if the time is right to be having difficult conversations around succession. It might not be a good idea to bring up the difficult conversations after a big Christmas lunch and a few drinks in the summer heat, it might instead be a good idea to line up another time to talk about the questions on everyone's mind.

Maybe it's time to set aside another time to prepare for the next drought, think about what you would do differently next time, would you keep feeding your stock through, would you destock sooner? and how will you know that you have made the right decision next time? Think about setting yourself some trigger points to help you take the emotion out of the decision when the time comes.

Most importantly, maybe it's a time to plan to take some time out for yourself. Life is all about balance, sometimes farmers can just get busy being busy (myself included). Maybe it's not time for anything else other than to smell the roses and enjoy the cut out party.