The term farm manager is loosely defined and means different things to different people, depending on context and audience. In this article, we aspire to clarify terminology and clearly define the accretive value a Farm Manager can provide a farming operation.
The term farm manager in the context of “boots-on-the-ground” farming relates to individuals responsible for the day-to-day operational management of a farm. This type of operational farm manager will typically supervise the cultivating, planting, fertilizing, spraying, harvesting and storage of crops. This role will vary based on the size and complexity of the farming operation. For small, family operations, this position is likely filled by the owner of the farm. For large-scale, multi-state farming organizations, such as Grant 4-D Farms[i] or Oregon Potato Company[ii], an employed operations farm manager would often be required to shepherd multiple farms throughout the season.
In addition to these “boots-on-the-ground” managerial positions scattered across the countryside, a Farm Manager adds value to the agricultural community, especially for absentee farmland investors or owners. Farm Managers “offer professional management services to farmland owners to help them optimize asset returns. Using their expertise in working with people, crop and livestock production, commodity marketing, soil conservation, financial analysis and accounting, and real estate brokerage, Farm Managers help clients maintain and improve asset values and cash returns to meet objectives.“[iii]
Three benefits of a Farm Manager include:
First, Farm Managers handle the flow of information for your farm, including all accounting and operational components, such as tracking, coordination and payment of utilities, taxes, routine repairs & maintenance, and input costs (fertilizer, seed, chemicals, soil amendments) – if applicable. This information is typically compiled into quarterly and/or annual reporting. Most Farm Managers are also equipped to provide design, implementation, and oversight on capital expenditure projects, including well drilling, irrigation system installation and upgrading, and storage facility construction.
Second, Farm Managers provide services such as lease negotiation and tenant selection, crop planning and consultation, project management, commodity marketing strategy and execution, and investment analysis. The diversity and depth of expertise requires a unique skill set to inherently bridge gaps between the boardroom and the tractor, so to speak. All qualified Farm Managers consistently tie together financial analysis, budgeting, and valuation, with climate, crops, and soil nuances of respective environmental endowments.
Third, Farm Managers have a deep understanding of environmental compliance and government programs, including wetland conservation programs, Conservation Reserve Programs (CRP), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Programs (CREP) and the recent Market Facilitation Program (MFP). In certain parts of the country, Farm Managers must also possess expertise on water rights, irrigation infrastructure, storage, or processing facilities. Due to the ever-evolving nature of agriculture and financial markets, successful Farm Managers are perpetually pursuing professional development to assist farm owners navigate the latest innovations. The quest for continual learning also creates a powerful network effect amongst individual Farm Managers.
In summary, Farm Managers possess broad expertise positioning them to be a valuable resource in handling the complexities of farm ownership and investment. The capable, seasoned, and sustainable Farm Manager can wear boots and Levi’s one day and a suit and tie the next. If you own or want to own farmland, and seek to maximize long-term return and value, visit with Root Agricultural Advisory today!