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CCFB News» January 2019

At the Farm GateBest Bargains Made Early on Farm Supply Buys

01/02/2019 @ 10:00 am | By Joanie Stiers

My husband will attest that my obsession with holiday-time bargains unleashed when the kids slept. Morning and night, I glanced through bookmarked web-pages for product price drops in November and December. I kept a spreadsheet of my shopping plan and small victories in cloud storage, which made it editable on my smartphone. And I consistently monitored email and phone notifications for deals. My goal: Buy Christmas gifts as cost effectively as possible to delight our kids, relatives, teachers, and my husband, too.


I funnel my focus into saving money, an objective as important as making it. I find parallels in the farm office during our farm’s season of shopping for next year’s seed, pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, equipment and insurance. During the holiday madness, I watched for coupon codes, rebates and cash-back rewards at retailers that sold my kids’ wish list items. On the farm, we’re making spreadsheets to analyze the value of rebates, patronage, quantity discounts, early-pay incentives and financing options on the final cost of farm supplies.


The financial side of the farming operation demands as much attention on our farm as the hungry steers at the feed bunk and planter prep in the shop. In generations past, the harder you physically worked, the more money you made. Today, farming requires more significant financial investment and desk-type management than ever. Depressed crop values and tight margins makes us even more driven to monitor product costs, call around for price checks and watch for package deals to redeem before they’re gone.


Serious holiday shoppers know to act fast to avoid the disappointment of your child’s most-wanted toy running out-of-stock. Likewise, orders for corn and soybean seed start during harvest – months before we need to plant it and a year before we’ll gather the result. From a semitruck or combine cab, my brother books seed to secure a supply of the most-sought seed varieties for our farm to use the following season.


Then again, booking early means paying early, too. While “pre-pay” never made Grandpa’s farming vocabulary during his career, farmers for years now have paid for seed, fuel and pesticides far in advance. We pre-payers fund products early to guarantee supply and prices up to a year before gathering the crop. Though not always ideal, this early-pay process most often results in the best pricing deals we can get on the farm – our business version of seasonal shopping for bargains.


About the author: Joanie Stiers, a wife and mother of two farm kids, writes from west-central Illinois, where her family grows corn, soybeans and hay and raises beef cattle.

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